-^ > '^ -'■"'»* .
ART OF SKATING;
MANY FIGURES NEVER PREVIOUSLY DESCRIBED,
ILLUSTRATIONS, DIAGRAMS, AND PLAIN DIRECTIONS
FOR THE ACQUIREMENT OF THE MOST DIFFICULT
AND ELEGANT MOVEMENTS.
(" CYCLOS "),
FOR MANY YEARS PRESIDENT OP THE GLASGOW SKATING CLUB.
HORACE COX, 346, STRAND, W,C,
PRINTED BY HORACE COX, 346, STRAND, W C.
PEEFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
The first edition of this treatise being entirely ont of print,
perhaps a second one might fairly have been offered to the
public before now; but the author, somewhat engrossed with
subjects more severe, was not ambitious of reoccupying the
field, and he fully expected that some competent hand
would, long ere this, have undertaken the task. That
expectation, so far, has been disappointed ; and un-
doubtedly a work of the kind is much required, since of
late years the number of skaters has greatly increased, and
(our young ladies having laid aside their old timidities and
taken zealously to the ice) that increase seems likely to
Perhaps the present should rather be called a new treatise
than a second edition, for, since the first was published, the
author has been looking at skating more from a didactic
point of view, and has had opportunities of watching
instructions to their results,, and the consequence is that,
while most of his former instructions can be repeated with
increased confidence, others have been considerably modi-
fied. Besides this,, the accomplishment of skating has
made some small advance with the world's general progres-
sion, so that many new figures have to be added to the
The principal source of these has been the Canadian
" Ice Kink/' an institution that was not in existence when
the first edition appeared.
The author regrets that he is not more perfectly
acquainted with Canadian skating, as some of their figures
are undoubtedly good, and there may be others that he has
not yet seen.
It seems highly probable that, with the extensive practice
attainable by means of the "Ice Kink/' evolutions more
difficult than any now known will be elaborated; and
certainly Canada seems bound to take the very first place
in skating accomplishment. The next book on the subject
ought to be a Canadian one.
It is not an uncommon belief that skating, like some
other things, cannot be taught by book, and that practice,
and an ordeal of hard tumbling, are the only paths to the
attainment of proficiency in this accomplishment. So far
this is true, that without a great deal of steady practice the
best instructions in the world will not make a skater ; but
it is equally true that proficiency cannot be attained
without instructions in addition to practice, and the skater
who has the benefit of good instructions will acquire any
figure he wants to learn, in half the time he would spend if
left to work it out for himself, and certainly with less than
half the falls.
Frequent instructions from a good master would be
better than from a book, as the learner does not always
know for himself whether he is really following instructions,
and is the better of some one who knows, to point out his
faults. But to be a good master it is not quite enough
to be a good skater, if he has not also studied the best
processes for attaining each given figure. I have often
seen very fair skaters giving instructions so erroneous as to
mislead a learner and start him on a wrong track.
Besides that, good skaters are rare ; away from the large
towns they hardly exist, and those who have attained
proficiency, having probably got at it with much labour,
are usually content with the attainment, and do not trouble
themselves to consider whether it might not have been got
at with less labour in some other way. If good skaters
would consider that, the modus operandi might be further
simplified. The author only pretends to give the best
modes he has seen or discovered ; these are not necessarily
the best possible. He has no hesitation in saying, however,
that good printed instructions, particularly if accompanied
by diagrams to make them comprehensible, are infinitely
better than an indifferent teacher ; and he is very confident
that even country skaters, who have never seen good
skating, could in a few years, by practising strictly up to
a book, qualify themselves to shine in any company. To
do this,, however, the directions must be studied from day
to day as the learner progresses, and they must be attended
to in their most minute particulars, as to attitude, position
of the feet, &c.
To make still more frequent and general the attainment
of this graceful, healthful, and exhilarating accomplishment,
is the only aim of this treatise ; and the author hopes, if
he has succeeded in making his directions and diagrams
sufficiently lucid, that his work will be acceptable to many
Pleasures of Skating .page 1
Antiquity of Skating 3
Skating in Northern Countries 4
Distance and Speed 5
Winter in Russia 5
Winter in Norway 6
Winter in America 6
Anecdote of Indians 6
Anecdote of Wolves .page 7
Winter in Canada 8
The Ice Rink 9
British Skating 10
London Skating 10
Edinburgh Skating 10
Glasgow Skating 11
Skating without Ice 14
The Common Skate 15
The Spring Skate 16
The Glasgow Club Skate 17
General Considerations 19
New Varieties 21
My own Skate 21
The Alexandra 22
Mr. Francia's 23
Starr, Mann, & Co.'s 24
Boot Skates 26
Skating Boots 26
INSTRUCTIONS IN SKATING.
Tivo Feet Movements.
Forward Striking or Running... 28
Frame for Teaching Ladies ...... 31
S erpentine 32
Backward Motion 33
S Figure 34
Treading the Circle 35
Canadian Grape Vine 36
Spread Eagle 37
Fencing Position 38
Single Foot Forward Movements.
Inside Edge Forwards .page 40
Outside Edge Forwards 41
Common Roll 42
Crossing Roll 46
Travelling .page 48
Figure 8 49
Spiral Line 50
Canadian Compass Circle ...... 50
Sea Serpent 51
Single Foot Backward and Mixed Figures.
Inside Edge Backwards 52
Outside Edge Backwards 52
Flying Mercury 54
Straight Line 55
Cork Leg , 55
Figure 3 56
Outside 3 , 56
Reverse 3 57
United 3s 57
Q Figure 57
Double 3 58
Double Reverse 3 58
United Double 3s 59
Canadian Loops 59
Sequence of the Lessons 60
Figures for Ladies 61
CONCERTED FIGURE SKATING.
The Satellite 63
The Salutation 64
Combination of 3s 64
The London Club Figures 65
The Glasgow Club Figures ... 65
ART OF SKATING.
Pleasures of Skating — Antiquity — Skating in Northern Countries —
Distance and Speed — Russia — Norway — America — Anecdote of
Indians — Anecdote of Wolves — Canadian Winter — The Ice Rink —
British Skating — London — Edinburgh — Glasgow — Skating without
Of all the sports and pastimes of winter, of all the pleasures
that are anticipated in the Christmas dreams of the emanci-
pated schoolboy, or shine in the bright home visions of the
athletic collegian — at that pleasant season of the year when
the yule-log burns on the hearth, and the holly hangs in the
hall, there is none that holds a higher place or is looked
forward to with more keen enjoyment than the delightful
pastime of skating. The pleasure may be partly owing to
the bracing atmosphere of a fine frosty day, when the very
winds seem to have been frozen in the air for the purpose
of covering the bare twigs and branches of the summer-
forsaken trees with a hoary foliage of silver, powdering
with sparkling diamond dust the limp and scanty grass,
and decking with fairy crystals each mean and withered
waif from the summer' s wreck. It may be partly the
exhilarating exercise, the sense of freedom, and power and
speed, and the gaudia certaminis, the joy in difficulties
Z THE ART OF SKATING.
overcome — all these seem to contribute to produce an
exulting elasticity of spirit that dissipates the ordinary
cares and crosses of life.
Suppose, in the first holiday of Christmas-tide, you have
left dry studies or business cares, and run down to the
country over night, with snow on the ground and the
stars shining splendidly. Then comes the pleasant greet-
ing of home faces, and dreaming once more on home
pillows, and you waken to a bright, keen, bracing
day, with fern-like fretwork on your window-panes, and
feathering on the trees, and the lake covered with a strong
sheet of glassy ice. There is the old home breakfast, with
loving faces round the table ; and then what furbishing of
skates, and turning of gimlets, and fitting of straps ; and at
last you are off — gliding over those clear depths with the
speed of a racer — dashing past the islands — wheeling round
the bays, or, with more composed evolutions, carving snow-
white circles on the undimmed surface — ciphering the virgin
page with an unfaltering calligraphy of 3s and 8s. And
pleasanter still is all this if fair faces and bright eyes
accompany and participate in the enjoyment, as seems the
growing practice now — and long may it be so ; bright eyes
will be all the brighter, and fair faces all the fairer, for the
high health and vigour derived from such glorious exercise.
I have heard some invidious detractors sneer at skating,
as rather a pastime for a schoolboy than for any man of
mature growth. Skaters can afford to laugh at such re-
marks, which can only come from those who never were
good skaters themselves. Narrow-minded people very often
affect to despise accomplishments in which they are them-
selves deficient, for to praise would be to acknowledge
their own deficiency, and that would engender a feeling of
inferiority, the admission of which would be too great a
trial for their pride, and they find it much easier to slight
what they have not, than to acquire it. That skating is
something more than mere exercise for schoolboys, is best
proved by the fact that to become a really good skater
requires so much careful practice that in this climate boys
do not attain proficiency. In Canada, probably, they attain
it younger than is possible with us; but I have certainly
never seen a mere boy who could be called a really good
A pursuit that calls forth the energy and assiduity of a
man to accomplish, particularly when not entirely exempt
from personal risk, may fairly be called a manly exercise ;
nor will its adoption by ladies at all detract from that
character ; for, while much grace of movement and some
really difficult figures are quite within their reach, in the
nature of things they are precluded from the more hazardous
wheels and balances.
As to the early history or remote antiquity of the art,
I can give the reader very little information. Blaine says :
Skating, although unquestionably a much more early practice among
us, is first noticed in the description of London, by Fitz Stephen, who
relates that " when the great fenne or moore (which watereth the walles
of the citie on the north side) is frozen, many youngmen play upon the yce."
Some, stryding as wide as they may, doe slide swiftlie ; asome tye
bones to their feete, and under their heeles, and, shoving themselves by
a little picked staffe, doe slide as swiftlie as a birde flyeth in the aire, or
an arrow out of a crossbow.
Certainly, this was skating of a very primitive description,
and that would not, I think, indicate a much anterior
Blaine also informs us, probably from the same old autho-
One of their sports was, for two to start a great way off, opposite to
4 THE ART OF SKATING.
each other, and when they met, to lift their poles and strike at each
other, when one or both fell, and were carried to a distance from each
other by the celerity of their motion.
And he further says :
Of the present wooden skates, shod with iron, there is no doubt we
obtained a knowledge from Holland.
They seem to have been introduced into England in
Charles the Second's time (about 1662), when the first
notice of them appears.
In our own country, where the opportunities of skating
are rare, and of short continuance, and where the distances
that can be traversed on fresh water are so small, skating is
purely a pastime, and is therefore cultivated more in the
direction of elegance than practical utility.
But in more northern countries, where the roads are
blocked up for months with deep snows, the frozen surface
of the lakes and rivers forms the only roadway ; skating and
sleighing are the only means of travelling and communication
between rather distant places. In this way, the inhabitants,
men and women alike, are skaters, and can travel their
fifteen miles an hour with ease, keeping up the pace for
One of these skaters, however perfect in his own line,
would make no appearance whatever in any of our British
clubs; and, in the same way, I fear, our finest performers
would be utterly distanced in the skating races of the
North, where they contest for victory on a thirty-mile
A Dutch woman skating to market, will carry her baby,
and a basket of eggs., forty miles of a morning ; and in
winter, the Amsterdam market for country produce is
mostly supplied by skaters.
Sleighs, pushed by skaters, or drawn by horses, or even
impelled by sails, are used for the same purpose in those
countries ; and Blaine says that in Lincolnshire something
of this sort is done — that skating is put to a practical use.
He also tells us that a Lincolnshire man, for a wager of a
hundred guineas, skated a mile in three minutes.
In speaking of speed, he mentions another remarkable
instance, that of an officer having skated from Montreal to
Quebec in one day ! which, he says, " considering the
state of the ice on these large rivers, was a wonderful per-
formance." Wonderful enough, certainly, to make me
somewhat sceptical, for, whatever might be the state of the
ice, the actual distance is 180 miles.
I believe a mile in three to three and a half minutes is
very quick work — even one in four minutes is not bad — and,
for endurance, fourteen to sixteen miles in an hour ; though
skaters practising for running may occasionally exceed that,
In this country we mostly make summer our holiday-
time, for in winter we have so much wet weather, that a
clear frosty day can never be reckoned on till it comes
But in other countries, particularly where the employment
of the people is wholly agricultural, the winter, which
brings its repose to the soil, brings its rest and rejoicing
to the people also. Labour has laid aside her sickle, and
garnered its fruits, and the time for the plough is still
distant ; why should she not feast and be merry ?
In Russia the winter is especially a festive time. The
brilliantly illuminated and furnished ice palaces of the Neva,
with their feasting, and music and dancing — the artificial
twin ice hills, down one of which the sledge rushes
thundering with such velocity as carries it entirely up the
other — with skating, and sleighing, and all sorts of ice
amusements, mark the progress of the Russian winter.
6 THE ART OF SKATING.
In Norway and Sweden, and round the shores of the
Baltic, the hardy hunter follows the chase on skates ; and
his speed and facility in turning, enable him to attack, and
avoid retaliation from, the ferocious wolf, till the quarry is
brought down with repeated wounds.
The American skater sometimes owes his preservation to
his speed and endurance on the irons. There is a well-
known story of a settler in the Far West, who was taken
captive by the Indians, and, after some days of bondage
and torture, was shown a pair of skates that had been
included in the plunder of his village. His captors, igno-
rant of their use, asked him to show them ; a beam of
hope cheered his despairing heart as, with trembling hands,
he proceeded to fasten them on. He soon got on the ice,
and commenced shuffling and tumbling about fantastically,
but taking care gradually to move farther from the shore,
the unsuspecting Indians laughing at his awkwardness.
They were then upon the far shore of one of the immense
lakes of that vast continent : and the sheet of ice that
stretched before the skater's gaze, ended only in the
When he thought himself far enough away, he fell for the
last time, and bound the skates more firmly to his feet, then,
rising, he stretched out at full speed, while the Indians
scarcely recovered from their astonishment in time to send
after him a few random bullets, which bounded and tinkled
along the ice harmlessly.
Still, though free, he was not out of danger ; he had a
vast desert to traverse without food or shelter, exposed
to the chance attack of wolves, or still more remorseless
Indians; and frequently turned from his course for miles,
by some wide crevasse, till he could find a spot narrow
enough to leap over. But after journeying in this manner
for two days and nights, when exhausted and despairing,
he fortunately fell in with a trapper, who guided him to a
More recently an incident happened to a Canadian settler,
in which his skates, though they certainly led him into the
danger, also bore him safely out of it.
His habitation lay on the banks of a river, and, being
fond of skatiug, he had gone out alone one fine moonlight
night to enjoy it.
The moon shone with unusual splendour, rendering more
faint the brilliancy of the myriads of stars, which, in so
clear an atmosphere, shone like diamond points, deep set in
the interminable blue. The ever- varying aurora borealis,
so magnificent in that climate, would ever and anon come
shooting up from the horizon in crescents, and columns,
and domes of many- coloured light, till the whole zenith
would become splendidly irradiated, and the ear could con-
nect with the flashes " a sound as of silken banners shaken
in the wind f these shapes changing as suddenly to narrow
streamers, and thin flakes of shooting and floating light,
ever brightening, ever darkening.
The ice was smooth and clear, and reflected in its motion-
less mirror the radiance of the heavens, and the deep shadow
of the primeval forest, which stretched gloomily on either side.
Tempted by the beauty of the night, he had wandered
rather far from home, and had entered one of the many
smaller creeks that joined the river : here his path gradually
darkened, for, as the stream grew narrow, the tall old trees
met and interlaced overhead.
Suddenly, from the brush at his side, came a low growl,
and, looking round, he saw two fierce eyes glaring bluely
at him through the darkness ; anon, others and others, on
all sides, and closer, till he thought he could feel the hot
8 THE ART OF SKATING.
breath of the hungry wolves which were closing round him .
Instant flight was his only chance for life, and, turning, he
rushed for home'. The wolves followed, and the chase was
a quick and a hot one; for a time, the skater kept well
ahead, and many of his pursuers gave up the chase. He
was approaching his home, and could at last even see the
light from his window glancing occasionally through the
forest ; but he felt that his powers were nearly exhausted,
and some of the wolves were still closing on his track, with
their long lumbering gallop that never tired. He saw his
home before him, and heard the welcome sound of his watch-
dogs barking. Oh, for one minute of Lion or Ranger — but
alas ! they were chained, and could render no help. The
wolves were at his heels, and, without any other thought
than that of meeting his fate, he turned sharp to one side.
The foremost wolf made a dash at him, but, unable to check
its velocity on the slippery ice, it slid past him, as did the
rest ; and the skater found himself with a fresh start, and,
nerving himself anew, he dashed on. A second time over-
taken, he had recourse to the same manoeuvre, when,
probably frightened by the loud barking of the dogs, the
wolves gave up the chase, and, in joy and thankfulness for
his preservation, the settler reached his home, resolved not
again to indulge in the romantic at such hazard.
In Canada the winters are particularly severe. The
snows that fall in December seldom vanish till May; the
intermediate time being mostly occupied with intense frosts,
varied, of course, with snow-storms and thaws.
The thermometer ranges from 25° to 30° below zero,
giving about sixty degrees of frost (in Britain, 20° above
zero, which is twelve degrees of frost, is considered very
keen, and we rarely have it so low) .
This severity of climate, however, seems almost to add a
zest to out-door amusements. Business and labour being
alike suspended, all ranks and classes indulge in a general
jubilee ; skates are sharpened, and sleighs new furbished ;
and the city inhabitants, late so active in business, now
follow pleasure with equal enthusiasm, in which their country
friends are in no way behind. Visiting commences in
earnest, distance being no consideration; city balls and
country junketings, where each guest brings his own dish,
are all the go, and the jingle of the sleigh bells is heard in
all directions ; the chance of being snowed up, and the many
hazards of the road, only adding zest to the fun.
Within the last few years their variable climate has sug-
gested, and their intense and long continued frosts have
enabled them to carry out, the idea of covered and enclosed
sheets of water which can be kept free from snow, and can
have the ice renewed as may be required. They are called
"ice rinks," and are, in fact, large sheds enclosed against
wind and snow, and lighted with gas, so that the skater can
follow his pastime comfortably, day or night, in all weathers
except thaw. The result is that the Canadian skater can
pretty well count on three months agreeable skating every
winter ; and the following extract from the Quebec Chronicle
shows the sort of programme : —
Fancy Dress Ball on the Ice. — On the 14th ult. the Quebec Skating
Club had their grand fancy dress ball at their ice rink. The bugle
sounded at nine o'clock, and the motley crowd of. skaters rushed on the
ice, over which they dashed in high glee, their spirits stirred to the
utmost by the enlivening music and the cheering presence of hundreds
of ladies and gentlemen, including the elite of Quebec. Over the glitter-
ing floor sped dozens of flying figures, circling, skimming, whirling, and
intermingling, with a new swiftness, the bright and varied colours, the
rich and grotesque costumes succeeding each other, or combining with
bewildering rapidity and effect. The gentlemen, in addition to the
usual characters, introduced some novelties — an owl, a monkey, a
monster bottle, a tailor at work on his bench, a boy on horseback, all
10 THE ART OF SKATING.
capital representations, and by good skaters. Among the suits of the
ladies were representations of " Night " and "Morning," a vivandiere, a
habitant's wife, and other characters that appeared to advantage. The
skaters presented both a varied and brilliant appearance, their parts
being well sustained as to costume and deportment, and their move-
ments on the ice being characterised by that grace and skill of
movement bred of long practice. The dances included quadrilles,
waltzes, galops, lancers, and so forth, for which there was suitable
music from first to last.
Now and then, at rare intervals, the St. Lawrence is
completely frozen over at Quebec, and then a grand carnival
takes place. Tents and booths are erected, and skating
and sleigh racing, and other glacial sports, are the order of
Something of this kind has taken place in London also,
when the Thames has been frozen over. A fair was always
held on its surface, which lasted with the ice. But this is
like a jubilee year, once in half a century, and sure now
to be still less frequent as the channel is deepened for
The London skaters resort mostly to the Serpentine water,
in Hyde Park, for their amusement, and when that is well
frozen, the scene is a very animated one, the crowd being
sometimes so dense as to preclude much fancy skating.
There, however, are to be seen the finest skaters that our
country can boast of, and even foreigners, accustomed to
the finest execution in their own more practical line, admire
the elegance of the English evolutions.
In Scotland, we must, I fear, acknowledge our inferiority
in skating ; for, though there are a few good skaters about
the large towns, the number is very small, and in country
districts the performances are usually very indifferent.
An old encyclopaedia, probably written in Edinburgh,
gave that city the palm for skating accomplishment, and
the reputation lias clung to her ever since. I do not believe
it ever was merited, or that at any time she could touch
London. A few years ago, when I saw the performances of
her club, I found them fifty years behind the day, doing
nothing whatever beyond outside forward, and even that
badly, and acting on the very conservative, but very mis-
taken, idea that nothing else was worth learning. Till they
abandon that idea, there is no hope for them.
The Edinburgh skaters go to Duddingstone Loch, a
very pretty sheet of water, to the south of the city, behind
Arthur's Seat ; and if you take the road over the hill on a
fine frosty day, when the ice is bearing, you see as pleasant
and lively a scene as can be witnessed anywhere.
The lake is spread out before you, so far below, that you
take in the whole surface at a glance ; the ice is brilliantly
white, for, though there is no snow on the ground, the busy
skaters have scraped a surface of snow over the ice. You
do not exactly see what they are doing, but only that they
are rushing frantically about, and tumbling over each other,
ever in restless motion, just like the denizens of an anthill,
and almost as numerous. There is a large sprinkling of
ladies also, and many of them you see with skates on, and
performing very creditably.
I like to see ladies skate ; though, no doubt, the early
steps must be rather trying to female nerves and female
draperies ; but more in idea than in reality, for, with careful
instructions, a lady may acquire sufficient skill to move
about freely without any extensive ordeal of falls. At the
same time, where the opportunity can be had of a private
pond, these little difficulties may be more easily surmounted.
In Glasgow there are probably fewer skaters than in any
town in the kingdom of near its size ; the inhabitants are
so much engaged with business all day, and there is so
12 THE ART OF SKATING.
total an absence of idle people, that the ice has only a few
These few, however, form the centre of a very flourishing
skating club, who have a very fine pond of their own ; and,
besides this, there are a number of ponds and small lakes
within convenient distance of the city, and, being situated
so far from the sea, they have at least three times as many
days of ice in each season as the Edinburgh men.
The Clyde is rarely frozen, and when it is, the ice is
usually bad from the rise and fall, caused by the tidal
influence, constantly breaking it while forming.
I now quote another passage about Canada, which
appeared in Once a Weelc, and I do so partly to correct a
popular fallacy, and partly to show what rubbish a man
may commit himself to who writes about what he does not
understand : —
I was once belated in Canada on a fine winter day, and was riding over
the hard snow on the margin of a wide lake, when the most faint and
mournful wail that could break a solemn silence seemed to pass through
me like a dream. I stopped my horse and listened. For some time I
could not satisfy myself whether the music was in the air or in my own
brain. I thought of the pine forest, which was not far off ; but the tone
was not harp-like, and there was not a breath of wind. Then it swelled
and approached ; and then again it seemed to be miles away in a
moment ; and again it moaned as if under my very feet — it was, in fact,
almost under my feet. It was the voice of the winds imprisoned under
the pall of ice suddenly cast over them by the peremptory power of the
frost. Nobody there had made air-holes, for the place was a wilderness,
and there was no escape for the winds, which must moan on till the
spring warmth should release them. They were fastened down in
silence ; but they would come out with an explosion when, in some still
night after a warm spring day, the ice would blow up and make a crash
and a racket from shore to shore. So I was told at my host's that
evening, where I arrived with something of the sensation of a haunted
man. It had been some time before the true idea struck me, and mean
while the rising and falling moan made my very heart thrill again.
All this fine writing in " high falutin' " style subsides into
worse than nothingness when it is known to be founded
on a fallacy ! No wind ever was in this world imprisoned
under a sheet of ice ! But that there is a popular idea
of that sort is undeniable. The author of the above had
imbibed the idea somehow, and founded that piece of non-
sense upon it.
In similar error, when that lamentable accident happened
in one of the London parks last January, one of the news-
papers (I think it was the Times, but am not quite sure)
had a leader, in which the cause of the accident was quite
scientifically explained to be, that the crowd, having col-
lected more to one end of the pond, the air under the ice
was driven to the other end, where it blew up the ice into
fragments, and caused the whole sheet to give way. This is
just the " imprisoned winds" over again. Now, the simple
fact is, that ice always floats on the water ; without the water
to support it, its own weight would break it immediately ;
it is, therefore, impossible for any quantity of air to be
between the ice and the water. If the ice is depressed by a
concentrated crowd there must be displacement of water,
but the ice on one spot would not bend far enough (without
itself breaking) to cause such displacement as to blow up
the ice at another place, unless the displaced water was con-
centrated, and its pressure all brought to bear, on a surface
still smaller than the place it was displaced from. Besides,
it was where the crowd was that the ice gave way, and the
almost certain explanation of the accident is, that the con-
tinued vibration from so many skaters had cracked the ice
by degrees into a complete web of cracks, meeting and
crossing each other in all directions, till, perhaps, there
was not a space of six inches free from them, and the
cohesion of the sheet was entirely destroyed. This is what
14 THE ART OF SKATING.
skaters should particularly notice, a few cracks here and
there are nothing, but when they become closely interlaced,
and when water is rising through them, the ice is no
Attempts have frequently been made to invent skating
that could dispense with frost, and be practised at any
I remember a professor who undertook, for a considera-
tion, to teach a mode of going on iron-wheeled skates, and
he certainly did wpnders himself, but somehow his pupils
made no progress, and then it ceased to pay.
More recently the same idea has been carried out with
wheels of vulcanised india-rubber : with these, a light weight,
who has learnt to do it, can, on a smooth wooden floor,
really make wonderfully rapid evolutions ; it is, however, an
accomplishment sui generis, and not exactly skating. The
wooden editions of the well-known ice figures are not recog-
nisable ; circles and large sweeps are not attainable. I have
no doubt that learning this accomplishment would be a
great assistance to real skating, and vice versa. But having
attained the one by no means carries with it the possession
of the other.
The implement, however, is very rude and imperfect, and
under a heavy weight the wheels crush and stop ; perhaps,
with larger and firmer wheels, something good may yet
come out of it.
THE SKATE. 16
The common Skate — the Spring Skate — the Glasgow Club Skate —
General Considerations — New Varieties — My Own — The Alexandra —
Mr. Francia's — Ibbetson's — Shirley's — Barber's — Harris's — Starr,
Mann and Co.'s — Boot Skates — Skating Boots.
The ordinary skate is no doubt perfectly familiar to my
readers, and requires no description.
It is by no means a perfect implement, but in some
respects very deficient. The principal of these defects is,
that the wood does not sufficiently adapt itself to the shape
of the foot, and is not broad enough to give a steady sup-
port, or to prevent its shifting.
The iron also projects beyond the foot in front, and falls
short of it at the heel, and is therefore not so well under
control as when it exactly follows the length of the foot both
The price varies with the size and quality, running from
3s. 6d. to 15s. a pair.
I recommend the learner, if youthful, to begin with a very
cheap pair, and after he has made some progress in the art,
and his foot has come near its full size, to abandon this sort
of skate entirely for one of the superior kind, which I shall
In the sale shops, the quality of the fastenings is usually
proportioned to that of the skate; but let the iron and
wood be as common as the learner pleases, he should have
the fastenings good ; and for the common cheap skate they
should consist of a good screw to go up into the heel, and
a small bar of iron across the tread of the foot, an inch
16 THE ART OF SKATING.
forward from trie broadest place, and turned up at the ends
to catch the sole of the boot. If the learner has these, the
straps will never require to be painfully tightened. Some
people like one long strap to go round the foot, through all
the holes in the stock, others use a back heel strap in addi-
tion. The latter is preferable.
In buying, let him look to the heel screw, and he must
himself get the bar put on to fit his own foot ; it must
project more to one side of the wood than the other, for the
outside of the foot, and the skates are then right and left.
It is put an inch or more forward from the broadest part of
the foot, in order that when you lean over to the outside
edge, the corner of the bar may not touch the ice sooner
than the corner of the boot-sole at the broadest place would ;
as otherwise it might cause a bad fall. It must be so placed
that the toe of the iron is neither too much to the outside
or inside. The bar gives a broader foundation for the foot,
and prevents the skate shifting from side to side ; and a
single day's skating with the three little pikes which are
commonly found in its place will do more damage to your
boots, by cutting the soles across, than would pay for the
alteration four times over, besides the discomfort of con-
stantly drawing the straps till the feet are cramped with
them, and the skate shifting in spite of all.
The Patent Spring Skate of Messrs. Eogers and Son,
from its light and elegant appearance, was very much used
for some years. The fastenings are simple, and quickly
adjusted. Instead of a heel screw, there is a pike ; and the
spring is solely used for keeping this pike in its place, not,
as might be imagined, for causing any buoyancy of motion.
I used this skate for some years, but considered it insecure.
The iron has too little support, and vibrates while skating
to such a degree, that I have known it break ; and being,
THE SKATE. 17
for the sake of strength, of a uniform thickness, the edge
does not catch the ice so well as those irons which are
thinner at the foot than at the ice. It is also, like the
common skate, too long at the toe and too short at the
I do think, however, that many of the objections I have
named, might be obviated by some alterations in construc-
tion, so that this beautiful skate might become thoroughly
practical, which it is not at present. The price, I think,
runs from 20s. to 25s.
The Glasgow Club Skate* is unquestionably superior to
any other in principle. Its peculiarities are, a better form
for the wooden stock or sole, which is made right and left,
the exact size and shape of the boot -sole, hollowed at the
tread, and at the heel, so as to fit close to the foot.
Likewise, a better form for the iron, which does not ex-
tend in the least beyond the toe, where it is simply rounded
up to the edge of the sole, and has therefore none of those
fine points and twisted up ends which our grandfathers
esteemed necessary elegances, but which are, in reality, just
as useful as the long shoe toes, which, in days of yore, were
looped up to the gallant's knee, and from which, I dare say,
the long skate points were borrowed. The iron extends back-
wards to the extreme edge of the heel, instead of being cut
off an inch within it ; and the corner is rounded off, instead
of ending in a sharp point, as in the old skate.
The advantages of the above form will be readily under-
stood by any skater. The fitting of the wood enables the
skate to attach more firmly, and the foot to be nearer the
* I call it so because I believe it was first adopted in Glasgow, but it
is now the common form of iron in London, Canada, and all the best
skating centres. The Edinburgh Club, I believe, ignores it, preferring
a straight iron and sharp heel.
18 THE ART OF SKATING.
ice, which, is an advantage. The iron being completely
under the foot, is more within its control • and especially is
the full length to the heel, and its rounded extremity, an
advantage as the skater progresses towards proficiency,
when he comes to practise the various evolutions which
require to be, in whole or in part, performed backwards.
Neither does the want of the sharp heel throw any
difficulty in the way of stopping when you please, as has
been sometimes suggested ; nor is the new form less elegant
on the foot than the old, on the contrary, it looks less
cumbrous and more practical.
These skates can be had from the CluVs makers, Messrs.
Chapman, Buchanan- street, Glasgow, but they are not
patented in any way. The price ranges from 18 s. to about
25s. , depending partly on the size, but more on the descrip-
tion of fastening, which may be still more expensive.
Hitherto they have been made only with first-rate material
and workmanship, but there is no reason why the shape
might not be adopted in nearly the cheapest quality made ;
at all events a very good skate might be made at a much
lower figure than I have named, and yet possessing all the
advantages of the improved form.
The stock or sole of the skate is made of beech or of box-
wood ; the former is lighter, and not so liable to split — the
latter has no advantage but the questionable one of being
prettier. Gutta-percha has been tried, but as yet not very
successfully : perhaps if it were mixed with sawdust from
hard wood, it might do very well, as mixing has been found
advantageous for other purposes ; or perhaps the form of
india-rubber called " vulcanite " might do. As already
stated, the sole should be made to fit closely to that
of the boot, the under side should not be left full, but
pared away as much as is consistent with the requisite
THE SKATE. 19
strength, so that it may not readily touch the ice in leaning
The iron ought not to be very much curved from toe to
heel. Makers are too apt to fancy that a great curve is
necessary to enable the skater to circle easily, forgetting
that the turns will be made with shorter bearing on the ice,
and therefore with less precision. Neither, however, ought
the iron to be too straight, or it becomes difficult to make
small circles ; a reasonable medium is best.
Walker says, "the curve should be the arc of a circle
whose radius is two feet." This is too much ; for, placing
the centre of the iron on the ice, each end would be
about an inch above it, therefore the bearing would be
very short indeed, I doubt if the curve should be the arc of
a circle at all ; I think it should not be a uniform curve, but
very slight indeed along about three or four inches of the
middle of the iron, and increasing towards each end, so that
when the middle touches the ice, the ends will be about
a quarter of an inch above it. The lower surface of the iron
should be a quarter of an inch broad, or 3-16ths under the
instep, getting slightly narrower towards each end ; it ought
not to be grooved, as is sometimes done, much to the
detriment of the beginner, who, after learning on grooved
skates, will feel himself like a cat on walnut shells when he
puts on plain ones. The edges should, however, be kept
sharp by occasional grinding, and in doing it, the iron should
be held across the face of the grindstone, which by giving
an almost imperceptible concavity, ensures a sharp edge.
It is desirable to have the foot as near the ice as possible,
yet necessary to have it so high that, in leaning over, the
edge of the sole should not touch the ice. If the iron is, at
the middle of the foot, an inch clear of the stock, it should
do ; but a broad foot may require an eighth or even a
20 THE ART OF SKAm G.
quarter more. An iron sole, being so much thinner than a
wooden one, requires a higher iron.
The mode of fastening may be varied to suit the fancy of
the wearer, as there are many modes sufficiently good; if
the skate is secure to the foot, so that it cannot shift in the
least, the end is accomplished; and if, in addition to that,
the fastening aids in supporting the ancle, so much the
better. Captain Jones thinks that a very firm fastening
leaves the skate " no proper play," and considers that a
fault; but I do not know what he seeks play in the skate
for. I think the more it can be united with the foot the
For f the heel fastening, a peg is the most simple. It
should be as long as the boot-heel will admit, and square ;
but, even then, unless the straps are kept very tight, it is
constantly coming out, and is therefore very objectionable.
A good screw, up into the heel, is very secure, but rather
troublesome in putting on, and after some days in the same
holes is apt to get loose.
A narrow bar of iron across the heel, turned up at the
ends, and with screws going into each side of the boot-heel,
is a very secure plan, and not troublesome, as the holes,
being in the sides of the heel, do not fill up. The screws
should have broad flat heads, that they may not project
inconveniently. I used these for many years and found
them very secure.
A bit of iron turned up at the back of the heel, with a single
screw to go in, is frequently adopted; but, though more
quickly adjusted, it is not quite so secure as the side screws.
A small bolt in the centre of the skate-heel, made to fit
into a slit in an iron plate fixed under the boot-heel, is an
excellent plan. It must be so arranged, that, to insert the
bolt, the skate is held at a right angle from the side of the
THE SKATE. 21
foot, and then merely turning it to the line of the foot fixes
it. The only objection is that the iron plate under the heel
makes the boots very slippery to walk with.
Another plan is, to carry the heel of the skate iron up an
inch on the back of the boot-heel ; a few deep notches in
ratchet form are cut in it on the inner side, and a little bit
of iron, with notches to correspond, is attached to the boot,
sunk in at the back of the heel, so that, when together, the
notches fit into one another.
The forward fastening should be a piece of leather, about
four inches broad, to meet over the foot, from the point of
the toe to near the instep. It may be joined either by a
lace, or by three buckles — the latter for choice. This, with
two small pikes under the tread, and a good heel fastening,
would be sufficient ; but I prefer adding a strap through the
middle hole of the stock, over the instep to the hole at the
heel, thence up round the ancle, and forward to buckle on
the instep, as it is an additional security and also supports
The pikes under the tread, with the improved stock and
improved fastenings, have not the objection of cutting the
boot-soles, as they do in the ill-contrived common skate.
Of late years several very ingenious and even elegant
contrivances for skate fastenings have been introduced.
The one I have myself adopted is an improvement on a kind
described in the first edition, being made now entirely of
iron. The sole is a plate exactly fitting the boot-sole; its
edges, from the tread of the foot forward round the toes,
are turned first up and then inwards, so as to catch on the
upper surface of the boot-sole. Round the heel the edges
are turned up without being turned inwards, and there is a
single flat-headed screw that fits into a socket on the back
of the boot-heel. This is the whole fastening; there are no
22 THE AM OP SKATING.
straps of any kind; the wearer trusts the rest to a well-
fitting and firmly -laced ancle boot.
I have found this skate everything that could be desired,
very easy to put on and take off, perfectly secure on the
foot, and more elegant than any other I have seen; but
it is expensive, costing about 2L 10,9., besides requiring
a pair of boots to be specially set aside for skating. To
obtain these skates you must have a proper pair of boots
made that fit you thoroughly ; the sole should project one-
eighth of an inch clear of the uppers. Wear the boots for a
day or two, to take the bend of the foot, and then send them
to the skate maker to be fitted.
Chapman, so far, is the sole maker, but they could
easily be done elsewhere. The price named means for
the best steel, which, by the way, is a most particular point,
and far too little attended to. Some are so soft that they
constantly need grinding, and that is a most trying nui-
sance, particularly if you chance to be out of reach of
a cutler who knows how to grind skates properly. Really
well-tempered steel will not need grinding once in a
season, unless longer than this climate usually favours us
The "Alexandra" skate, which has double irons, was
introduced a few years ago as a facility for ladies learning.
It is radically and thoroughly bad. If any of my readers
have been induced to purchase, by plausible representations
of a royal road, they had better treat the investment as a
bad debt, toss the Alexandras into the pond, and buy
something more practical.
There was a skate described in the Field a few years ago,
which I have seen in use for two years, and it gives satis-
faction. It requires the boot to be prepared in the making,
by having a stud built into the sole firmly, to project a quarter
THE SKATE. 23
of an inch from the too, and a socket for a screw in the back of
the heel. The skate iron is carried up in front and at the
back, with a hole in each, the front one fitting on to the
stud, and then inserting the screw behind fixes the skate.
Of course there are tread plates for both sole and heel,
made either of iron or brass. No straps of any kind. If
preferred, there may be a socket at the toe, the skate iron
being hooked to fit into it ; this was Mr. Francia's plan. /
Among the skates that require a special boot, a variety
made by Messrs. Ibbetson is a very ingenious one — I think they
call it their " boot skate." It has brass tread plates. There
are iron plates on the sole and heel of the boot (which may
perhaps prove slippery in walking) ; that on the sole has a bolt
in the middle, which opens out for use as a knife blade opens
from the handle ; it fits into a hole in the tread plate, but
can be got in only by holding the skate at right angles to
the foot. On turning the skate to the line of the foot the
heel plates fit into each other and close with a spring.
This is certainly the quickest of all fastenings, it is very
neat and seems secure ; but I am not sure that the apparatus
might not prove liable to derangement; at least it would
need to be kept free from dirt and be occasionally oiled.
The cost is 40s.
All skates requiring a special boot, must have the fixtures
most carefully adjusted so that the toe of the skate iron
may come to the exact point where the skater wishes to
have it, as of course he cannot afterwards change its
position to suit himself, as with a common skate. I think
the correct point is exactly between the first and second
toes, and I would rather have it more to the inside than
more to the outside of that, but opinions differ.
Of the recent introductions I have seen four which require
no special boot.
24 THE ART OF SKATING.
The first I think is called Shirley' s, it holds by a sort of
cap that catches round the toe of the boot-sole, and a
pinching screw at the heel ; and with a very stiff sole it
holds well, but failing that, it is not secure, and it causes
the sole to bend up in the middle and hurt the foot; I can-
not recommend it. It costs about 20s.
The second has clamps to catch the sides of the sole ;
these are opened and closed by screws turned by a wheel
under the middle of the foot ; the heel fastening consists of
a long screw under the boot-heel, and which on being
turned draws three pikes into the front of the heel at the
same time that it forces one into the back. This is Barber's
patent; it costs 35s. I do not know its practical working,
but I doubt it very much. The strain on the boot-heel
seems severe; there is a very awkward screw handle
sticking out behind, and I am almost sure that in skating,
the edges of the wheel would catch on roughnesses of ice
and work loose.
The third is called Harris's clamp skate, and costs 20s.
iron soles, or with brass soles, 25s. It has clamps for the
sides of the sole, and clamps for the sides of the heel also ;
these are closed by screws, for which you carry a small key
in your pocket. I understand they hold very firm, and that
the principal objection is that it is difficult to unfasten them,
as the screw does not separate the clamps, but this slight
defect can probably be got quit of by adapting a double
The fourth is from Nova Scotia, and is a very ingenious
* I learn that this suggestion, which was made by me last year, has
now been carried out and is patented by Hilliard, Renfi eld- street,
Glasgow ; and as Harris has bought the patent, it is only necessary, in
purchasing " Harris's Clamp Skate," to specify that it must have
fastening; it is patented by Starr, Mann, and Co., Halifax,
where it costs about four dollars, but it can be had of rather
superior make from Hilliard, Renfield- street, Glasgow, at
22s. It has clamps for the sides of the sole, a clamp at the
back of the heel, and three pikes for the front of the heel.
The whole of these are forced into action by a lever under
the instep, which connects them all. When pressed into
position a notch in the end of the lever catches on the upper
edge of the iron and holds there. To unfasten, you simply
press up the lever to free the notch, and then draw it to one
side, which instantly liberates all the clamps. It also
adjusts for different sizes of feet. It seems to be an excel-
lent plan, but I cannot speak of its practical working.
None of these four varieties have any straps, and you
must therefore have a close-fitting, well-laced boot.
To sum up : I would recommend, where enthusiasm does
not outrun economy, just the wooden -soled skate of newest
form, with a good heel screw and straps, the front one to be
broad and separate.
Where saving of trouble is considered compensation for
a little extra price, either " Harris's Clamp Skate/' or
that of Starr, Mann, and Co.
Where a full purse, or exuberant enthusiasm demands the
best that can be had, either Ibbetson's Skate, or that
described as used by myself.
Most of those described can be had at Chapman's,
Buchanan -street (the maker for the Glasgow Club), or at
Hilliard's, Eenfield-street, Glasgow.
It is a great error to leave the purchase of skates till the
ice is bearing, then rush to a shop and have to take anything
you can get. Yet that is almost the universal plan. At
any other time you would have a far better selection to pick
from, and would have time to get properly fitted. The
26 THE ART OF SKATING.
same if your irons want grinding, it would be carefully done
before winter, whereas, when the frost conies the cutlers are
overwhelmed with such work, and cannot do it so well.
Boot skates I have never used, but have heard them well
spoken of. For ladies, I should consider them by far the
best description. The skate iron is just inserted in the
thick sole of a lacing ancle boot, and there is no fastening
beyond putting on the boot, and lacing it firmly. It is no
new invention, and I therefore think if there was not some
strong objection, it would have found more general favour
with skaters. I find it advertised upwards of seventy years
The new invented half -boot skait, sold by the inventor, Mr. James,
No. 14, Newgate -street, and by Thomas Olio Rickman, No. 7, Upper
Mary-le-bone-street. Price one guinea and a-half.
So it has had at least plenty of time to introduce itself.
One objection is, that instead of only a pair of skates, you
have to carry a pair of boots to the ice, and may have some
difficulty in the disposal, while there, of the walking boots
you take off.
Whatever differences there may be in taste or opinion as
to the shape of the iron, or the mode of fastening, I appre-
hend there is none as to the best description of boot for
skating in. Unquestionably the best is an ancle boot, lacing
from low on the foot, up the front. The sole should be a
stout single sole — double would raise the foot too far from
the ice. The upper leather should be stiff and well fitted,
so as to be capable of being firmly laced, that it may give
full support to the ancle, where, in skating, all the strain
rests. The lacing should be in two operations, the first
coming up to the bend of the ancle and fastened there, the
second from that point to the top. Probably, instead of a lace,
a series of buckles would do as well, but I have not tried it.
THE SKATE. 27
There is still a desideratum in skate fastenings. I ques-
tion if even any of the new modes is yet perfect, while the
deficiency in all the best of them is that their use is nearly
limited to one particular pair of boots. You cannot borrow
your friend's skates on an emergency, nor lend your own.
Nevertheless, I would not sacrifice security of fastening to
any other consideration ; and the general application is of
less consequence, as every one who is particular about his
skating will set apart a pair of boots for the purpose.
In conclusion, I need hardly suggest that to keep the
irons highly polished, and the straps and buckles clean
and in good order, is not too trivial to be worth a little
28 THE ART OF SKATING.
INSTRUCTIONS IN SKATING.
MOVEMENTS PERFORMED ON BOTH FEET.
Forward Striking — Skating frame — Serpentine — Shinty — Backward
Motion — S Figure — Treading the Circle— Canadian 8 — Grape Vine
— Spread Eagle — Fencing Position.
As already stated, the bottom of trie iron is about a quarter
of an inch broad, but in skating this is only in a few rare
positions flat on the ice ; it is the sharp edges of the bottom
that the skater uses — sometimes the one edge, sometimes
the other. The one is called the inside, the other the out-
side, and the evolutions which are designated " inside " or
"outside" refer to which edge of the iron is used in
We will now suppose the aspirant fairly equipped, his
skates firmly fixed, and himself placed on the ice — on his
feet, and left to his own resources. He must have no stick,
— if a lady^ no muff (neuter or masculine), but the arms
must be left free and unfettered.
Beginners should remember that the
normal position of the feet in ordinary
skating is on lines nearly at right angles
to each other. This is of special import-
ance to be attended to, as it enables the
feet to aid and control each other ; it will
readily be observed that in that position
both cannot slide away at once.
Forward Striking or Running
Is the first movement to be learned. I will first describe
what it is, and then the steps towards attaining it.
INSTRUCTIONS IN SKATING. 29
In executing it the skater keeps his toes turned out just
so far that his feet line at right angles to each other. From
that position each foot is lifted alternately and set down,
slightly on the inside edge, when it immediately slides
forward, additional impetus being communicated by the
other foot, which, from its position at right angles, can push
against the ice without sliding.
The first step has enabled him to progress, say on the
right foot, for a yard or two ; he then sets down the left
forward, while the right has taken its position at right
angles to give the impetus. This movement repeated on
each foot alternately enables the skater to attain great
velocity, and is called " forward running."
We have supposed the beginner on the ice, and prepared
for his first lesson. Let him, as gently as ever he pleases,
and with steps so short as hardly to be steps, attempt to
walk or progress forwards. The toes should be turned
outwards, the ancles kept stiff, and the heels apart. Even
if he can, he should not lift his feet high, and he must not
try to push them out in the meantime, for he will probably
find that the mere setting down will give him more impetus
than he is quite prepared for.
He should lean well forward, so as in no case to fall back-
wards : in a forward fall the hands can assist, but a back
fall is in every way awkward and objectionable.
One great error beginners make is forgetting or failing
to keep the ancle stiff; the object of doing so is that the
middle of the iron may be the last part to leave the ice, and the
first to reach it again. If he bends the ancle and rises on the
toe, as in walking, the result will probably be a fall ; equally
so if he sets down the heel first, which is a common fault.
The lesson should never be hurried ; no attempts at royal
roads, no lugging about between two skaters, as is so often
30 THE ART OF SKATING.
done with lady learners. All these are real hindrances, teach
bad habits, and give dependence in place of independence.
The first thing a beginner has to learn is to keep his feet
within his control, to be able to prevent their sliding away
from nnder him. Of course sliding is the ultimate end to be
attained, but that afterwards comes naturally, and what is
wanted at first is to be able to control the sliding tendency
of the irons. Therefore the common practice of learners
commencing with a little push on one foot and a little slide
on both, then another little push (generally from the same
foot) and another little slide, and so on, is just about the
worst practice they can adopt. They should first learn to
move about without letting the irons away at all.
Of course it can be acquired the other way, and the bad
habits can afterwards be got rid of with care ; but it is far
better to avoid ever having them.
If a fall is imminent, the best way is just to subside as
gently as may be compatible with the emergency ; making
frantic efforts to save, usually has no better effect than
making a light fall severe, and in the case of ladies is
But by the mode of learning I have described, falls may
almost be escaped. I have known more than one young
lady in a couple of hours learn to stand with perfect confi-
dence, and even move about by herself, slowly indeed, but
without much risk of falling ; and, in a very few days' trial,
move quite freely and safely, and step with that regular
alternation of foot which is absolutely necessary to graceful
skating. Quick learning depends almost entirely on ability
to keep the ancles stiff; and walking with skates on a carpet
or lawn would greatly aid that.
What with bruises and tired ancles, possibly a little
ridicule at his falls, or an occasional practical joke from
INSTRUCTIONS IN SKATING. 31
some expert companion, the first day or two goes off rather
unpleasantly; bnt that the exultation at gaining a new
power more than counterbalances all misfortunes, is best
proved by the fact that no one is deterred by them, at least
I never heard of any ; on the contrary, the moment the
day's miseries are over, they leave behind them an increased
appetite for more, and this appetite continues to grow with
the learner's progress.
In a very few days, the learner, if he has carefully
attended to the above directions, will find himself able to
move about with a little more security, and he will find
himself striking out a little. In doing so, let him be parti-
cularly careful to use both feet equally, and not acquire the
bad habit of doing everything with the right foot, to the
neglect of the left. He should carefully time the lifting of
his feet to be sure that he is doing it equally, as perfect re-
gularity in stepping from foot to foot is essential. Continued
practice will soon make him perfect in forward striking,
and bring him on step by step, not merely to freedom
and grace in his movements, but to the attainment of those
more difficult evolutions which we will afterwards describe.
While I deprecate most of the adventitious aids by which
learners vainly attempt to hasten their progress, I am of
opinion that a properly contrived frame, with a bar breast-
high for the hands to grasp, would be of great advantage in
getting learners into a correct attitude and regularity in
striking. There should be a bar also close to the ice to
prevent the learner's skates from going too far forward, as
that would cause an awkward fall. And the frame should
32 THE ART OF SKATING.
not be too easily moved, or it would fail to teach the neces-
sity of keeping the feet at right angles, as the only position
from which to gain pushing power. It should therefore
not be on runners. With these suggestions, I think any
country carpenter could knock up a contrivance to suit ; and
it would undoubtedly facilitate ladies learning forward
striking ; beyond that it would be of no use.
The Serpentine — Forwards without Striking.
The feet, instead of at right angles, are placed parallel.
Without lifting either, turn both at once in the same direc-
tion, say to the right, swinging the body with them. Then
both to the left, with a swing to that side, and so on. The
skater progresses in a wavy line, apparently without effort,
and the velocity acquired is considerable.
The easiest way to learn is, after taking a few strokes
forward to gain force, bring the feet parallel but well apart,
and with the knees bent ; and, while going along in that way,
attempt to make the line wavy by swinging the body, and
turning both feet first to the right, and then to the left;
aiding the motion, by pushing against the ice with the left
when going to the right, and vice versa. At first it is diffi-
cult to keep up the speed you commence with, but after a
little practice the impetus can not only be kept up, but
originated, without requiring any striking for the com-
mencement. In this lesson the feet are always parallel
instead of being always at right angles, as in the former lesson.
This movement is not perhaps elegant, but it is a great
relaxation from the fatigue of striking, and without much
diminution in speed. Moreover, if you come to a weak bit
of ice, it is by far the safest way of crossing it, as the motion
is more gentle, and the weight is divided equally between
the two feet, which in such a case should be kept consider-
INSTRUCTIONS IN SKATING. 33
The learner at this stage should have done some practice
also in turning, so as to acquire steadiness aud rapidity in
doing it, not only to right and left, but quite round. The
process will suggest itself, and needs no description.
Shinty (AngUce, Hockey).
Although this variation in skating is considered altogether
infra dig. by our most accomplished performers, and is
entirely ignored by the Glasgow Skating Club (and very
properly so where the space is somewhat limited, as it is
rather annoying to be knocked off one's equilibrium in the
middle of some difficult figure, or finely balanced poise,
and dashed to the ice by the stampedo rush of a party of
frantic players), yet I cannot forbear from a few words in
Where there is room, I consider following the shinty ball
on skates an exhilarating and invigorating pastime ; and,
what is still more to the purpose, I know no other sort of
practice that will give a learner so much confidence and
security on his skates.
Of course he must be able to run about pretty freely
before he can attempt shinty, but when he can, the keen
spirit of the game urging him after the ball, with rapid runs,
sudden stops, and quick turns, quite heedless of falls and
impediments, will give him a control over his skates that
twice as much less exciting practice would not. Sharp
heeled skates are a great advantage in this sort of skating.
The common backward motion on both feet is exactly the
same as the " Serpentine/'' except being backwards instead
of forwards. To learn it, take a few strokes forward, then
turn quite round, and while the impetus lasts, turn the right
34 THE ART OF SKATING.
toe inward, and push yourself back from that foot, then turn
the left one inward, pushing from it, and so on alternately,
and leaning forward all the time. You will soon find it
quite easy not merely to keep up the first impetus, but to
increase it, and to begin it without any forward strokes.
Great speed can be acquired, but there is nothing grace-
ful in this movement ; it however lessens the awkwardness
of feeling yourself moving backwards, and it is necessary to
learn it, because it facilitates some of the more difficult
evolutions, and gives the freedom and confidence of varied
The S Figuee
Follows as an easy result from the last described, and this
is as neat and graceful as its prototype is otherwise. As
soon as you are perfect in the common backward motion,
try at each stroke to bring the feet into line, one behind the
other, toe to heel. As soon as you take a stroke from the
right foot, bring the right heel to the left toe and go back-
wards in that position, the left iron being on the inside edge,
the right iron on the outside. Then, in taking a stroke from
the left foot, bring the left heel to the right toe and go
backward, this time the left iron being on the outside edge
and the right iron on the inside.
At first you will find it very difficult to bring either iron
on to the outside edge, if you have not learnt outside before
attempting this, but even in that case perseverance will
overcome it, and this practice will be found a great assistance
towards subsequently learning outside. The perfection of
this figure is, to have the feet in accurate position without
interval, and to go backwards in alternate full sweeping
semi-circles of considerable size. To arrive at that, you must
rest most on the foot that is outside edge, and if you are
already an adept at outside, you will find this figure ex-
INSTRUCTIONS IN SKATING. 85
tremely easy. When circling to the right the head is
turned to the left shoulder, and vice versa.
Treading the Circle
Is also a backward movement, with both feet employed,
and in the same relative position as in the last named, that
is, toe to heel. It is like taking one of the circles of the
S and perpetuating it.
Lean well forward ; bring the feet into line, say the right
heel to the left toe. Slightly lift the right foot, and set it
down again in exactly the same place, but on the outside
edge ; then, slightly lift the left foot, setting it down again
in the same place, but on the inside edge ; repeat with the
right, and so on alternately, but never changing the relative
position of the feet nor the edges of the irons. The motion
obtained from that slight lifting and setting down takes you
back in a circle, which you continue in the same direction,
gradually increasing the speed and the size of circle, till
astonishing velocity is attained.
When the circle is small and the speed slow, the lifting
of the feet should be imperceptible ; the source of the
impetus is then unseen and the movement is very easy and
graceful. But, to increase the size of circle and attain speed,
the lifting must be more marked.
This figure is more frequently done with the front foot on
the inside edge instead of on the outside. That is a great
deal easier, and equal speed is attainable, but it looks
sprawling and ungraceful, and is just as inferior to the above
as all inside figures are inferior to all outside ones.
The Canadian 8 (Diagram III.)
Is another backward figure in which the feet are in line as
the last, and in which they never change their relative
positions, though the edges of the irons are changed.
36 THE ART OF SKATING,
Take a backward stroke, bringing the right heel in front
of the left toe, in that position circle backwards a small
circle to the right ; as soon as the circle is complete, lean
over to the left, keeping the feet in the same relative
position ; that turn changes the edges of both irons, and
in the act of doing it, you have to acquire impetus to
carry you back in a small circle to the left. When that is
completed you are back at the point where you changed
before, and therefore the figure 8 is complete. You must,
however, repeat the 8 ad libitum in the same tracks,
and making the changes so smoothly that the source of
impetus is entirely concealed. This figure, when well done,
has a very pretty effect, and I have found it difficult to
acquire. If you prefer not to complete the 8 you may go all
over the pond in a wavy line much resembling the S figure,
except that the feet do not change their relative positions.
The Canadian G-rape-Vine (Diagram III.)
This is another figure executed with the feet in line, toe to
heel, but the relative positions of the feet, and the edges of
the irons, and the direction from backward to forward are
changed so often and so rapidly, that I almost despair of
describing it intelligibly. I saw it beautifully performed
last winter, and it looks like a curious interlacing and
juggling of the feet, the source of impetus being entirely
concealed. I asked the performer to spell it for me in
syllables, but he could not, as he said it could not be done
slowly. There are several forms of it, some very compli-
cated ; the simplest I will try to describe. Start with the
right foot on the outside edge in front of left on the
inside edge, make a small semi-circle forward in that
position, then throw back the right shoulder, changing
your direction to backwards with the right toe to the left
INSTRUCTIONS IN SKATING. o1
heel, the right foot being now inside edge, and the left
outside. After a back half-circle in that way, again bring
forward the right shoulder, changing direction again to for-
wards, with the right foot outside edge in front of the left
inside edge. 1 hough the changes of the feet are somewhat
complicated, the body simply repeats a half-turn back and
front again, never going completely round, and the face
actually remaining steadily in the same direction all the time.
For instance, if you are going along the pond from north
to south, the face at starting is turned nearly west, looking
past the right shoulder. At the first change, throwing
back the right shoulder, takes the body round by north,
but the face remains at west looking past the left shoulder,
bringing forward the right shoulder again restores the
In the more complicated forms of this figure the turns
are complete instead of only half, but I can neither do them
nor describe them. The diagrams will however, I hope,
give a better idea of both.
The Speead Eagle.
I describe this figure without recommending it. It is
ungraceful in the extreme, and leads to nothing else. It is
executed by placing the feet in the dancing master's "first
position," heel to heel, in as near a straight line as pos-
sible, the knees being bent, and the arms held nearly
straight up. The impetus having first been obtained by a
few forward strokes, the feet are brought quickly into the
position, and the head turned in the direction in which you
are going, when the natural consequence is a circle side-
ways, made on the inside edge of both irons, and larger or
smaller according as the feet are more or less in line, the
body more or less upright, and the head more or less turned.
38 THE ART OF SKATING.
If the feet can be turned a little more, the knees still
bent, the body inclining backwards, and the head turned
over the shoulder in the direction yon are going, the circle
becomes one on the outside edge, which has an extraor-
dinary appearance from its extreme difficulty, and on that
acconnt may be worth getting np ; bnt not, even then, does
it approach elegance.
Mr. Cartwright's mode of learning the outside Eagle
seems the best, and may be of nse to any one who wishes
to attain it : —
To make it, skate forward, and let the right foot cross the left at
every second stroke, as if you were practising the outside according to
the directions given for that. When by this means you have attained
a tolerable speed, make a bold stroke on the outside edge of the left
skate, the right one being free ; turn out the toe of the right while still
in the air, preserving the inclination, and then put it down. If you are
skating in a large circle such as we have on. the Serpentine, your face
will be to the spectators, and your back to the centre. The centrifugal
force of course supports you — it is, indeed, the key to the figure ; for
you can only commence it on the outside by having previously been
skating in a circle by crossing the foot.
The Fencing Position.
This is one of Captain Jones's figures, and, though only a
modification of the last mentioned, is in every way superior
to it. The feet are in the same position, but you rest most
on the one in front ; instead of going on either edge of the
iron yon must keep on the flat, so that yon move in a per-
fectly straight line, without curving either way, and in this
lies the difficulty. The attitude, from which the name is
taken, is thus described : —
The right arm (when going to the right) must be held out nearly in a
line with the shoulder, and the eyes fixed on the fingers of that hand.
The body must be held as upright as possible, the breast held out, and
the head back ; all these positions must be well observed, otherwise it
will be impossible to move in a right line, or to keep your balance.
INSTRUCTIONS IN SKATING. 39
Another variation of the " Spread Eagle " is given by-
Captain Jones. It is to combine the inside circle and the
outside, by executing, in the position of the spread eagle, a
curve on each edge alternately, which must be extremely
difficult, and will, if well performed, prove a showy figure.
Steiking Forwaed and going Back.
For those to whom curious feats and tricks have more
attraction than mere grace, I may mention a somewhat
peculiar movement in which, while the stroke or motive
power appears to be taken in a forward direction, the pro-
gression is really retrograde. I do not know what to call it,
but perhaps the "Adullamite " would be a not inappropriate
It is done entirely in outside circles, or rather small sec*
tions of circles, and in the following manner. You look and
you lean in the direction you donH mean to go, that is forward;
lift one foot, say the right, cross it quite over the left, in
front, and set it down on the outside edge. Then lift the
left, cross it over in front of the right, and set it down on
the outside edge, and so on alternately. In each setting
down you give the foot a concealed impetus backwards, and
that, along with the forward leaning of the body, is quite
enough to send you back pretty quickly, to the surprise of
the spectators. As might be expected, there is a strong
tendency in this movement to go down on your oivn nose,
as well as to trip up other people, so that it has been
found to be rather a hazardous style of statesmanship.
iO THE ART OF SKATING.
SINGLE FOOT FORWARD MOVEMENTS.
Inside Edge Forward — Outside Edge Forward — Rolling — Crossing Roll
— Travelling — Figure 8 — Spiral Line — Compass Circle — Sea Serpent.
The term " figure skating " is more frequently applied to
those figures which are done on one foot, and which may
therefore be supposed to be the most difficult. But this is
not altogether correct, for many of the figures on both feet
are more difficult than some that are done on one. It was
not possible to describe them strictly in the order of their
facility, as one man finds a figure easy which may entirely
puzzle another man, who again may find another easy which
is difficult to the first; I have therefore put the two feet
figures in one chapter, and I now come to the single foot ones.
The turns on the inside edge are comparatively easy,
because the skater requires to lean very little off the centre
of gravity, and it is towards that side where he has the other
foot ready to support him in case of need.
Those on the outside edge are, on the other hand, very
difficult to attain, because the learner must lean very
considerably off the centre of gravity before he properly
reaches the outside edge ; and he leans to that side where
he is deprived of the aid of the other foot. It would be
quite impossible to stand in this position, but he can circle
or curve, because the centrifugal force keeps him from falling.
Inside Edge Forward.
When the young skater can run freely, and feels himself
pretty well at home on his skates, he will naturally dwell
tfiGUiti; SKATING. 41
longer on each stroke than at first • and as, in describing
" Forward Striking," I mentioned that it is done on the
inside edge, and as the iron always circles towards the side
on which it rests, it follows that dwelling on the stroke
gives the arc of an inside circle, which a little longer dwell-
ing on that foot wonld complete.
This is very easily learned, but, nnfortnnately, when
learned, it is worth nothing ; and I mention it, only because
it comes naturally to the beginner ; and he is apt to think
he is doing a very fine thing when he can go on one foot in
any way ; whereas I think he should rather avoid practising
the inside edge forwards, as it is not used by good skaters,
except rarely, as part of other figures, and, I fear, rather
impedes the acquirement of the outside edge. Backwards,
it is a different thing, but of that anon.
This is unquestionably the key to all superior perform-
ance, and no one can have any pretensions to be considered
a moderately good skater who is deficient in it.
All the most difficult figures are variations of the outside
roll ; and it is therefore of the utmost importance to the
learner's subsequent proficiency, to be well grounded in the
There is, I fully believe, only one way of learning it well,
and if the learner is uninstructed in that, he may labour for
years, and, after all, not acquire the correct balance.
Let the skater, by means of common skating, attempt to
move round in a circle ; at first it may be of any size he
pleases, and be gradually reduced as he improves. As he lifts
each foot for the next stroke he is to cross it in front quite
over the other, and set it down, then the other in front of
that, and so on alternately ; always dwelling as long as he
42 the art of skating.
can on whichever foot is nearest the inside of the circle,
because that foot is working on the outside edge of the
iron — and as briefly as possible on the other, which works
on the inside edge. The foot that is behind must be kept
behind till it is to be set down, then be brought forward,
and the instant it is in front, down with it ; it must not be
carried in the air in front for an instant.
When tired of skating with the right foot to the inside of the
circle, go off in the other direction, that is, making a circle
with the left foot to the inside of it, when you will dwell
most on the left; be particular to give both ways equal
When first the learner tries skating round in a circle, he
will find it rather difficult, and particularly so to put down the
foot quite across to the outside* of the other, but with a little
practice he will get round with comparative ease ; and, after
a few days at this, varied, of course, with other practice, he
will be surprised at his own progress ; he will find himself
able to dwell for a few yards on the outside edge, with the
raised foot behind him — perhaps nearly to complete the circle.
There is no other mode of learning that will give equal
confidence in leaning over to the outside, or enable the learner
to acquire the correct balance, and yet keep the raised foot
well back ; for there is no other practice that gives the
centrifugal force which alone makes leaning over possible
without falling. Even after the skater can complete the
circle on the outside edge with tolerable ease, he will find
benefit from frequently reverting to this practice ; particu-
larly at the beginning of every season, when he may feel a
Rolling — The Common Roll (Diagram I.)
This is the first mode of turning to account the last
lesson. It consists of an outside semi-circle on each foot
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FIGURE SKATING. 43
alternately ; and has been termed u Rolling/' on acconnt of
the marked inclination of the body, first to one side, then to
the other, as the skater circles to the right or to the left.
To the mere spectator, it appears more wonderfnl than any-
thing else, as the body is manifestly in a position which it
would appear impossible to maintain for a moment without
It is maintained, as 1 have already mentioned, by centri-
fugal force; and the inclination can therefore be much
increased by increased speed : exactly as circus horses walk
round the circus upright — canter at a slight inclination
inwards — but when put to the gallop, lie over in a position
in which they could not stand for an instant.
Except in executing any of the figures, it is not necessary
to complete the circle in Rolling. The skater changes
the foot when he has a mind ; nevertheless, I would recom-
mend the learner not to attempt to alternate the feet, until
he can do a complete circle on either separately. If
he begins trying to alternate as soon as he can go a yard
or two on the outside edge, he will inevitably check his
acquirement of the proper inclination, as he has to change
to the opposite side before he has ever got fairly over to
When he has attained the single circle on either foot
properly, changing from one to the other at pleasure is
easily acquired. To make the change, he must bring for-
ward the raised foot, and, without crossing it, set it down in
front on the outside edge, with the heel towards the inside
of the other foot, at the same time changing the inclination
of the body. In making this change, the foot that has just
finished its curve comes over momentarily on to the inside
edge, and by pushing from that, he takes the impetus for
his new circle. As in common u Forward Striking/' at the
4:4 THE ART OF SKATING.
moment of making each stroke, the feet are at right angles
to each other.
The raised foot must not be brought forward till it has
to be set down ; for nothing is more awkward and ungainly
looking than to see a skater rolling with the raised foot
perhaps up high in front of him, or sticking up stiffly to one
side like a pump handle. But, as doing so acts as a coun-
terbalance to the lean oyer, it is easier than the right way,
and the learner is very apt to fall into a bad habit, which a
careful beginning would avoid.
Captain Jones's plan of teaching is rather different from
what I have described, and I shall therefore extract it for
the reader's consideration. He says :
To preserve the balance on the outside edge is so difficult to be
acquired, that I have known many to spend three or four winters in
learning it. To prevent such disappointment, I will lay down one
general rule, which I have never known to fail, even with those who at
first seem the most awkward. Suppose a stroke to be made on the left
foot, it must be put down on the flat, with the knee bent, the head
inclined to the left, the right arm held out, nearly upon a line with the
shoulder, and the left arm held close to the side ; then, with the right
foot, impel yourself to the left, by often pressing the inside edge of the
skate on the ice ; the left foot is not to be taken off . By this method,
you will make a sweep, which you must endeavour to increase, by inclin-
ing the body to the left, and bearing on the outside edge of the skate,
and by gradually increasing your inclination, and turning the head more
and more to the left shoulder, you will form a spiral line. This method
must be reversed for the right foot ; and if practised for two or three
days, the outside edge may be acquired.
I confidently assert, that if the young skater tries the
Captain's lesson, he will learn very slowly ; and after he
gets to skate on the outside edge of the iron, he will be
seen to hold his body more perpendicular than the limb on
which it rests, being evidently afraid to lean over to his
circle. Depend upon it, nothing but going round and round
FIGURE SKATTNG, 45
quickly in one circle will teacli him to lean over, for nothing
else will give the centrifugal force which alone enables it to
be done. The captain was evidently not aware of this, for
he devotes a very pedantic chapter to the inquiry why it is
possible to maintain the body in a falling position.
Which must appear to those who neither consider nor understand the
reason, as it were somewhat amazing ; but if mechanically considered, it
may be easily conceived with this allowance, that nature here, as well as
on many occasions, acts in a manner that cannot be entirely reduced to
" This allowance " is certainly a very neat way of jumping
the difficulty, and flooring those "who neither consider nor
understand." It is a fair specimen of natural philosophy in
the dark ages. He then goes into an elaborate argument
to prove that a wooden representative of humanity could
not possibly maintain an inclination so far off the centre of
gravity, and concludes :
I can assign no other reason for his being capable of supporting him-
self in such an attitude, than the wonderful construction and manner of
acting of the muscles.
For learning Rolling, the next authority, likewise a mili-
tary one, Captain Clias, says :
Much assistance may be derived from placing a bag of lead shot in
the pocket next to the foot employed, which will produce an artificial
poise of the body, which afterwards will become natural by practice.
With all deference, I should fancy that, if an artificial
counterpoise is to be used, the hand farthest from the foot
employed would be the best place for giving it power. But
I beg the learner to use nothing of the sort.
The reader will, I hope, excuse my dwelling so long upon
" Rolling," for the reason that it may well be considered the
key to everything else ; and I wished to give him other
opinions as well as my own,
46 THE ART OF SKATING.
The Crossing Roll (Diagram I.)
For many years the Crossing Roll had been pretty gene-
rally ignored as inelegant, bnt it is again coming into
favour, and is certainly the fashionable movement of the
day. Whatever difference of opinion may exist as to which
of the two styles is the most elegant, there can be none as
to the much greater difficulty of the crossing roll. There-
fore, say its advocates, proficiency in it indicates a higher
stage of skating accomplishment. I am not disposed to
dispute the point ; for, while I am satisfied that the difficul-
ties are real, I am not quite satisfied that the inelegance is
inherent and inevitable, and am rather disposed to defer to
the opinion so strongly expressed by Mr. Cartwright and
other writers in the Field, that perfection in the " crossing
roll" is a " great accomplishment." I, therefore, recom-
mend diligent practice in it, so as to subdue the tendency
of the limbs to assume awkward positions, which seems to
pertain more to this than to the common roll.
In executing, the whole difference between the two is in
the setting down of the foot for the new stroke. In the
common mode, as will be remembered, the foot is brought
forward and set down on the inside of the other with the
feet at right angles, and the impetus is gained by a push
from the other foot, which has come momentarily over on
to the inside edge of the iron. In the crossing mode the
foot is brought forward — crossed over in front, and set
down on the outside of the other, with the feet parallel or
nearly in line, and the impetus is gained by a push from
the other, which remains to the last on the outside edge of
In either mode the most perfect roll is in very full semi-
circles ; for instance, if you are going along the pond, from
south to north, the right foot should be set down pointing
FIGURE SKATING. 47
west, and the next stroke should not be taken till yon have
got ronnd to face east, when yon set down the left foot
pointing east ; and so on.
The Canadians have added a tnrn to the roll ; their circles
are done very small, and instead of changing the foot after
a semi-circle, they spin ronnd on the same foot in a very
small loop, and change the foot when round to the same
direction as they were in at the end of the semi-circle, thus
making a turn and a half between each change of foot.
When well done the effect is very good, and its attainment
requires much practice. To get round the loop it is neces-
sary to bring the raised foot to the front, which is rather
awkward and the only objection to the figure.
I have still one important point to discuss, namely, the
attitude. I recommend a quiet one, without exaggeration or
attempt at display. The old style, with the foot held high
behind, and the arm high in front, looks rather pompous
and theatrical now-a-days, but that is less objectionable
than the extreme carelessness or awkwardness that charac-
terises some otherwise good skaters. The skate, perhaps,
circles beautifully, but the knee above it is awkwardly bent,
while the foot in the air is held as if playing football, and
just about to make a tremendous kick. The body is twisted
away from the circle, the head is obscured somewhere
among the shoulders, the eyes are watching the progress
of the feet, and as for the arms they assume the most
awkward positions attainable on the spur of the moment !
No single skater perhaps aggregates all these awkward-
nesses in his own person, but if he has any one of them, let
him eschew it carefully.
If you are rolling on the right foot, the right knee, which
is necessarily bent at the commencement of the stroke,
should be quickly straightened up, the right shoulder
48 THE ART OF SKATTNG.
forward, the head erect and the eyes turned in the direc-
tion in which you are circling — the right arm may or may
not be a little raised, but never so high as the shoulder —
the left arm down, the left knee a little bent, and turned
away from the other, the toe pointing to the ice, close to it
and barely a foot behind the right heel. When skating on
the left foot, all these positions are interchanged.
So much at least for my opinion ; but, that the reader
may have a little more choice, I will tell him what other
writers say on the subject of attitude.
Captain Jones, for " travelling " on the outside edge,
recommends ft the hands in the side pockets as most easy."
" Travelling," I may mention, is just " rolling " in a milder
form; instead of circling, the curve is reduced to some-
thing not far off a straight line, but still on the outside
edge. This is the movement used in northern countries for
going journeys ; reducing the curve of course saves distance
For " genteel rolling," he says :
Let the arms be easily crossed over the breast ; some chuse to let
them hang down at their sides, and others put them behind their backs,
both these methods are straining, and not graceful.
Captain Clias says :
On the commencement of the outside stroke, the knee of the employed
limb should be a little bended, and gradually brought to a rectilinear
position when the stroke is completed. On taking the stroke, the body
ought to be thrown forward easily, the unemployed limb kept in a direct
line with the body, and the face and eyes looking directly forward ; the
unemployed foot ought to be stretched towards the ice, with the toes in
a direct line with the leg. While making the curve, the body must be
gradually and imperceptibly raised, and the unemployed limb brought
in the same manner forward ; so that, at finishing the curve, the body
will bend a small degree backward, and the unemployed foot will be
about two inches before the other, ready to embrace the ice, and form a
correspondent curve. The muscular movement of the whole body must
correspond with the movement of the skate, and should be regulated so
FIGURE SKATING. 49
as to be almost imperceptible. Particular attention should be paid in
carrying round the head and eyes with a regular and imperceptible
motion ; for nothing so much diminishes the grace and elegance of
skating, as sudden jerks and exertions too frequently used by the
generality of skaters.
The above is excellent; the only alterations I would
suggest are, to straighten the employed leg as soon as you
can, to keep the unemployed one less stiff by slightly
bending the knee and turning it outwards, and to delay
bringing the foot forward till ready to change.
For the arms, the same authority says, —
There is no mode of disposing of them more gracefully in skating
outside than folding the hands into each other, or using a muff.
This I certainly cannot recommend.
The attitude I have given for rolling may be considered
a sort of normal one for all figure skating forwards ; and for
backwards, if you follow the instruction to turn the head and
eyes in the direction in which you are circling, you will still
In some of the more delicate poises, such as the " fencing
position/' " flying Mercury/' large " spiral/' " shamrock,"
and a few others, it is necessary, for the balance, to extend
the unemployed limb and raise the arm a good deal more
than I have described above, and in these alone a certain
staginess must be excused, in consideration of the difficulty.
This is rolling so as quite to complete the circle with each
foot alternately ; the starting point is the centre of the 8,
and finishing one circle brings you back to that point to
start for the second circle. This is a most beautiful figure,
and excellent practice ; to make it available for skating in
concert, you must learn to execute the pair of circles,
repeating them always in the same tracks. Throw your
50 THE ART OF SKATING.
glove on the ice, or make some mark for your starting point,
at which your circles must also finish. You must also learn
to make the circles large or small at pleasure, and to control
your movements so as to keep time with your partners.
Either the common or the crossing roll may be used for this
figure; for very small circles the crossing is best. The
Canadians have made very small circles fashionable, but I
consider them less graceful because they require the unem-
ployed foot brought to the front.
The Spiral Line.
Take as many forward strokes as will bring you to your
top speed, then start on one foot for a large outside circle,
but instead of completing it at the starting point, reduce the
circle as you proceed, continuing as long as the impetus
lasts, which may easily be for three or four complete turns,
the circles becoming gradually smaller.
The attitude for this is the same as for rolling, except that,
the balance being more difficult, the unemployed limb must
be a little more raised, and the arms a little more extended,
trying, however, to avoid exaggeration. The moment you
start on the circle, straighten the employed limb, take the
balance, and keep it to the end without the slightest motion
of head, hand, or foot, other than the smooth gliding round.
Any other movement indicates difficulty in keeping the
poise, and spoils what is otherwise a beautiful figure.
The Compass Circle
Is one of the Canadian figures, and only those who have
practised very small circles can attain it.
Suppose you are skating for an outside circle on the
right, the unemployed foot is to be held behind and crossed
to your right as far as you can stretch it, and the toe is
placed on the ice and forms the centre round which you
W^f®fe..ri,,„ ; ;
FIGURE SKATING. 51
have to revolve. Your left leg is thus the radius of the
circle,, and as that gives a small circle only, of course the
lean over has to be very great to accomplish it. Three or
four revolutions can be made in that position by a good
skater with highly curved skate-irons ; the effect is certainly
peculiar, and it looks difficult, but not graceful.
The Sea Sekpent.
This is rather a whimsical movement, and, I dare say, will
not prove a favourite ; but as its difficulty may prove an
attraction, I give it.
With three or four forward strokes to gain power, start
on one foot outside, and, after making a semi-circle, change
the skate to the inside edge, at the same moment bringing
forward the raised leg in front, and sweeping it back again
without setting down ; when you have done a semi-circle on
the inside, change back to the outside, giving the same
sweep of the leg, and so on alternately. You can, in this
way, progress without ever putting the raised foot on the ice ;
at first, you will only be able to continue while the first
impetus lasts, but by practice you will increase your number
of curves, till you can dispense with the preliminary striking
altogether, and make the movement self-sustaining. The
change from one edge to the other, and the impetus, must
be derived from the sweep of the raised leg, and a corre-
sponding swing of the body, not from any twisting of the
ancle. The semi-circles should be as full and equal as
This figure, under a different name, was a favourite in the
last century, but now it is rarely practised.
52 THE ART OF SKATING,
SINGLE FOOT BACKWARD AND MIXED FIGURES.
Inside edge Backwards — Outside edge Backwards — Flying Mercury —
Straight Line — Cork Leg — Figure 3 — Outside 3 — Reverse 3 — Sham-
rock — United 3s — 2 Figure — Double 3 — Double Reverse 3— Four
" Field " Figures— Sequence of the Lessons — Figures for Ladies.
The Figures of which this chapter treats may be considered
the highest attainments in skating, notwithstanding that
some of them may come more naturally to the young skater
than one or two of those that have been described earlier.
Is never used except as part of another figure ; it will be
best learned in acquiring figure 3.
Having, in a previous chapter, been instructed to go
backwards on both feet, you will have observed that, when
the S figure is attained, one foot rests on the inside edge
and the other on the outside, and you were desired to rest
most on that foot which was on the outside edge. By carrying
that practice a little further, you will find by degrees that
you are able to lift the other foot from the ice entirely, and
attain a backward circle outside on one foot.
When you can complete the circle on either foot, you
must learn to alternate. The common mode of doing so is,
as soon as you push back, lift the foot you do it with, rising
on to the other with a straight knee ; when you wish to
change, set down the raised foot, and take the stroke from
the other, lifting it as soon as you have done so. The
Single foot backward and mixed figures. 53
objection to this mode of doing it is, that while you are
taking each stroke, both feet are on the ice together for a
time, which entirely destroys the effect, and makes the
movement appear laboured and awkward, whereas, when
done in the correct way, it is perhaps the most beautiful
that can be accomplished.
The mode I allude to, when well performed, is as follows :
The skater, when one semi- circle is complete, and he
wishes to change, sets the raised foot, with the toe turned
well out, down on the ice, crossed in behind the other, and
rises upon it without stroke of any kind ; the front foot is
raised and carried slowly backwards with a sweep, so as to
get behind in time for setting down, at the end of the semi-
circle crossed as before ; then the other is lifted also with a
slow sweep round, to be set down behind in its turn. While
sweeping the raised foot round, the head follows the move-
ment, that is, looking over the left shoulder while circling
on the right foot, and vice versa. Turning the head not
only assists the curve, but enables you to see where you are
going, and thus avoid collisions, which might otherwise be
very frequent with backward skating. The beauty of this
figure depends on its total absence of effort, the impetus
being got merely by the setting down of the feet, and the
correct balance of the body.
The way to learn it is, to try to walk backwards, as
slowly as ever you like, setting down each foot alternately,
crossed in behind the other, with the toe much turned out,
and the skate always on the outside edge. You must not
attempt any circle at first, or to dwell on either foot, but
when one is set down, raise the other, and at once put it
down behind. At first you will naturally lean forward, and
then the skate will not be set down on the outside edge,
but as you gain confidence and begin to walk quickly back-
54 The art of skating.
wards, the body will get upright and the iron will naturally
take the outside edge ; and when that stage is reached, you
have only to dwell a little longer on each foot to attain
circles. This beautiful movement is not so difficult to learn
as it looks, but whatever trouble it costs him, the skater
will not regret it. Many may consider the opinion erro-
neous, but I am quite satisfied that it is easier to learn
outside back than outside forward, and that the former should
be taught first.
This is a very large backward circle on the outside edge,
and it has received its name from the attitude, which is a
very striking one. I consider this the same figure as the
" Spiral/' only backwards instead of forwards. Indeed,
formerly, when backward movements were not practised,
the name was applied to the large forward circle.
The figure is performed by taking a few forward strokes
with great force, wheeling or springing suddenly round on
to the outside edge, and endeavouring to describe as large a
circle backwards as you can. The difficulty is to get round
so quickly as not to lose force, and then to attain the
balance, which, from the size of the circle, is a very delicate
one. To make the wheel requires great confidence, and
that is only got by practice.
There are several modes of getting round on to the
outside. One way is to use the Outside 3, which will be found
described a little farther on. As soon as the second half of
that figure commences, that is, just as you are getting on
to the inside backwards, set down the other foot on the
outside edge, and rise upon it. It is still simpler to do it
by the reverse Figure 3, as you get at once on to the outside
edge ; but these will hardly give a large enough circle, and
it can be done thus, with more force than by either of the
D/ AG RAM /?.
^j^^ 5 ^.
SINGLE FOOT BACKWARD AND MIXED FIGURES. 00
other modes : — After a few strokes forward at full speed,
bring the feet together, spring up and wheel round, at the
same time rising on one foot and catching the balance. In
whichever of these you employ, the motion must be quicker
than its description, or, I fear, you will lose too much, force.
While you are learning so difficult a balance, you are at
liberty to use your arms and unemployed leg to the fullest,
spreading them as you please, to get the balance, but when
the figure is acquired, the attitude had better be restrained
to that of the "Spiral."
The inside edge is also sometimes used for the " Mer-
cury," but it is neither difficult nor graceful, and had better
The Steaight Line
Is very similar to the last figure, but you have to catch the
balance without leaning on to either edge of the skate,
keeping on the flat of the iron, and this carries you back in
a straight line. As the skate takes no hold of the ice, this
balance is extremely difficult to acquire, and many good skaters
can attain it only with both feet on the ice, in line toe to heel.
The Cobk Leg.
This, like the " Sea Serpent," is a figure in which, by
alternate outside and inside curves, you progress on one
foot without ever setting down the other ; but the motion is
differently executed, and it is done backwards.
The body is inclined slightly forwards, and the impetus is
derived by twisting the ancle so as to throw the skate on to
the inside and outside edge alternately, describing very
small curves on each. The raised foot is held motionless
behind the other, and takes so little part in the figure that
it might be dispensed with altogether — whence the name.
It may, however, be done with larger sweeps in the manner
of the Sea Serpent.
56 THE ART OF SKATING.
Figure 3 (Diagram II.)
This is described by means of an outside roll forwards
for half a circle, then changing to inside backwards on the
same foot, without bringing down the other in any way.
The change is effected mainly by a swing of the body,
and turning the head to the new direction, which, if the
ancle is kept stiff, will change the edge of the skate to the
inside back ; the learner must therefore pay more regard to
the balance of the body and the turn of the head than to
the feet. In learning, he will feel constrained to make the
first curve of the figure a very small one, but as he improves,
he must endeavour to extend it to the full semi-circle.
When he can do it on each foot separately, he must learn
to do it alternately; after completing the figure on one foot,
going freely off on to the other, and so travelling about the
pond where he pleases, as he does in Rolling. After that,
he must learn to control his movement so that he can make
the figure finish exactly in the spot where it commenced, as
that is necessary for combined figure skating, though the 3
somewhat loses its form by the change. To practise for this,
he must follow the same directions as given for Figure 8.
The 3 was introduced in the last century as the " heart-
shaped figure," and was then thought so difficult as to be
quite the acme of skating accomplishment.
Outside 3 (Diagram II.)
Figure 3 is also sometimes done all on the outside edge.
You start outside forward, say on the right, and the instant
you have made the wheel for inside back, put down the left
foot outside and execute the second half of the 3. This
figure is much used in the quadrille figures, as they are
rather foppishly called.
After you can do it with confidence, a large and bold
The- *£' Figure*
Same/ traj&s without? chaMfing
~/br Infant/ throw- frock iJi-zrykZ s7imdder\ .... jfyr 2*"?' iwrn/ 1 firing
■/orwar& ffw rigftz sTimtZder. 7$ 2/. -
SINGLE FOOT BACKWARD AND MIXED FIGURES. 57
figure can be performed with it. Some skaters make the
wheel in the air instead of on the ice ; that is, they leap from
outside forward on the one foot to outside back on the other.
It may be well to be able to do it in every way, but really
finished skaters never leap.
Figure 3 Eeverse (Diagram II.)
This is not so often practised as the former, but it should
be acquired, as it assists other figures. It commences with
inside forwards for half a circle or rather less, when the
body is quickly turned, so as to complete the figure with
outside backwards on the same foot, and without setting
down the other.
The Shamrock (Diagram III.)
This figure is so named on account of its consisting of
three circles, each about two-thirds completed. After a
very full Figure 3, on completing the inside backward circle,
change the edge of the skate to the outside, and finish the
figure with a circle of outside backwards — thus executing
three different motions on the one foot, without setting down
the other. The last change is effected by quickly throwing
the body backwards, and it is easiest done when the middle
circle has been a full three-quarter one. It is a difficult
and beautiful figure.
United 3 (Diagram IV.)
When the peculiar turn in the " Shamrock" has been
acquired, it may be made use of to unite Figure 3 and
Figure 3 reverse, doing both on one foot before setting
down the other.
The Q Figure (Diagram III.)
Start with a curve on the outside forwards, then change
the edge to inside forwards, and finish with a circle out-
&8 The art of skating.
side backwards, all on the one foot, without setting down the
other. It is just the " Reverse Figure 3/' with an outside
curve put before it ; but, simple as that prefix appears, the
learner will find it adds more to the difficulty than he may
The Q figure contains exactly the same changes of edge
as the Shamrock, and is just the latter skated from end to
beginning. Either of them may be done with the circles
more or less complete, as the skater pleases ; the illustrations
show each in what is usually considered the most perfect way.
It is well worth learning, being a very neat figure when
Double 3 (Diagram II.)
After completing a Figure 3, repeat it on the same foot
without setting down the other ; this requires you to change
from inside backwards at once to outside forwards, and it is
very difficult. The skater who is sufficiently advanced to
attempt it, requires no directions. It is not enough, how-
ever, that he succeeds in making all the changes, and gets
through the figure anyhow, probably dwelling only for an
instant on the first turn of the second 3 ; each semi-circle
must be full, or the beauty of the figure is lost, and it
becomes a mere spin.
When the skater once attains the Double 3, he can triple
it, or even more.
Double 3 Reverse (Diagram II.)
This can also be done, and, when once attained, can be
continued almost ad libitum; but the turn from outside
backward to inside forward is rather too much of a jerk to
be very pretty, and therefore this figure, though decidedly
difficult, is quite inferior to the preceding.
Some figures have appeared from time to time in the
Figures 3 and* Jfei/er$e/3
Fi gure<3 cwnfime d/ -firr 4- Skai&x.
TlarJc Im&dB. the start
TTuw Ime B A. the return^
SINGLE FOOT BACKWARD AND MIXED FIGURES. 69
pages of the Field, which seem well worthy of a place in
any work on skating.
A " Member of the Skating Clnb " (the London one pro-
bably, thongh the designation is vague), after describing
the Double 3, says :
This figure has lately been varied by changing the edge at the end of
the Double o from the inside to the outside, and this, throwing you on a
different tack, enables you to do the double backwards, and so on as
long as sufficient steam can be kept up. To do this perfectly, either
backwards or forwards, and on both legs, will, I think, give country
skaters something to try: (see Fig. 1, Diagram V.)
This is just uniting the <( Double 3 " to the " Double 3
Reverse " by interposing the peculiar turn that is required
in the C( Shamrock '■' exactly as I have described in uniting
the Single 3 to the 3 Reverse. To unite figures that were
already double, is more than doubly difficult, and I had
never heard of it before. Were it possible to change from
inside back to inside forwards, the two figures would be
exactly united without any turn not strictly belonging to
them ; but I believe it to be almost impossible, and the
mode described is certainly abundantly difficult to try
any one's powers, while it is evidently quite a possible
combination of turns.
Another contributor to the Field, signing merely " a
Skater/' gives three Canadian figures which he had seen,
and of which also I give diagrams.
No. 2 (Fig. 2, Diagram V.) commences at A on the right
foot outside forward ; the three semi-circles are done before
changing the foot, the whole figure being forwards ; the left
foot is put down at B in the style of the crossing roll, and
the same turns repeated on it.
This figure is evidently a good one, and well worth
No. 3 (Fig. 3, Diagram V.) represents the same figure com-
60 THE ART OF SKATING.
mencing at A. on the right foot, outside back, and continu-
ing the same position through the figure. The left is put
down behind the right at B, and the same turns accomplished.
I should like much to see this well done, it looks to me the
most difficult thing out.
No. 4 (Fig. 4, Diagram V.) is not very different from
No. 2, only that the centre loop is in different lines. The dia-
gram is entirely outside forward on the right, commencing
at A. The small circle is said to be only a foot or fifteen
inches in diameter. It seems quite as good as No. 2 — nothing
to choose between them.
The natural result of the limited space available in the "ice
rink " has been to develop figure skating in a high degree,
but to develop it only in the direction of very small figures.
For this purpose it will be observed that Canadian skaters
have adopted irons of greater curve than we use, and their
whole style of performance is minute, with frequent involutions
of the feet, rapid turns, and small circles. The full sweeps
and large figures, which are most admired with us, seem to
have no place with them, and the consequence is that
attitude is less considered by them, and is generally faulty.
They have to change it so quickly that it never has time to
As in the preceding instructions I have not attempted to
describe the figures in such sequence as ought to be followed
in learning them, it may be desirable to give learners, and
particularly ladies, a few hints as to their most advisable
course of practice.
The first instruction is how to get the skates under
command (p. 28), and by degrees to strike out, the length
of stroke increasing with her proficiency. When she has
learned to time her strokes evenly, she may occasionally,
when she has gained impetus, bring her feet together and
COURSE OF INSTRUCTION. 61
run in that way for a considerable distance. She should
also, at this stage, practise for confidence in turning.
The next lesson is to move forward swiftly and freely
without apparent striking (p. 32).
The next lesson is to do the very same thing backwards
The next practice I suggest is one of the very best for
giving command of the iron — namely, walking backwards,
setting down the feet always in the dancing master's fifth
position (p. 53).
When the learner has mastered the above, she is suffi-
ciently grounded to make trial of a variety of movements,
which will be found less monotonous, and even more
effectual than adhering rigidly to one lesson.
For instance, outside backwards, which, by the mode
taught (p. 53), heterodox as the opinion may seem to
many old skaters, is really easier than forwards.
Outside forwards (p. 41).
Figure S (p. 34).
Treading the Circle (p. 35).
The next stage of progress beyond these is to make the
outside backwards and forwards in the style called rolling,
and in the still more complete form of Figure 8 (p. 49).
And if beyond this, Figure 3 can be attained, or possibly
the Shamrock, I should say the acme of female accomplish-
ment had been reached; for those figures in which the
motion is more rapid and violent, or in which the hazard of
falls is greater, or which recommend themselves by their
difficulty rather than their grace, are decidedly unsuited for
ladies, and should not be attempted.
Nothing that I have recommended above is beyond
female attainment. I have seen on the Glasgow Club pond
two ladies doing Figure 8 in concert (Salutation, p. 64), quite
62 THE ART OF SKATING.
beautifully ; and one graces the pond who adds to that both
the forward and backward roll, in perfect time and attitude^
and is rapidly attaining " Figure 3/' the " $" and " Tread-
ing the Circle ; " while several others are making very hopeful
progress in outside.
CONCERTED SKATING, 63
The Satellite— The Salutation — Combination of 3s— London Club
Figures — Glasgow Club Figures — Conclusion.
Eveey one who has mastered the detached figures should
next endeavour, by special practice with companions, to
acquire figure skating in concert. The object is to com-
bine various movements in any arrangement agreed on, so
timed that all the skaters, working from one common
centre, interweave the figures and circles without collision ;
and when this is skilfully done the effect is beautiful.
The Figures most used are Figure 3s, and back and for-
ward outside circles and half-circles. They require to be
executed with great precision, and the skater must have
such perfect control of his movements, as to be able to
make any change at any instant, or on any spot required.
Wooden balls are usually placed on the ice for guides.
Any convenient number may join in this. Suppose a circle
on the ice of about nine feet diameter : the skaters take their
places round the outside of this circle at equal distances
from each other ; a ball or some other mark must be placed
a yard out from each position. The skaters all start at once,
describing the centre circle on the outside edge, and in the
same direction. On completing the circle to within one ball
of his starting point, each skater goes off on the other foot,
also on the outside, thus making a diverging circle round the
ball he stopped at. All complete these satellite circles at
64 THE ART OF SKATING.
the same instant, and start again as before round the centre
one, each stopping one ball short of his last, and making a
second satellite. The figure is complete when each skater
has gone round every ball in its turn, but it may be con-
tinued ad libitum. This figure may be varied by executing
Figure 3s for the diverging or satellite circles.
This is the Figure 8 in concert, and requires two or four.
Two stand face to face, about two feet apart — both start at
once, say on the right foot, for an outside circle. In start-
ing, they pass each other on the right side, going opposite
ways. On their respective circles being complete, they are
again face to face, but in changed positions ; and start on
the left foot, passing each other on the left side, so that
each skater describes his companion's circle the reverse way.
When four do it, the second pair describe their Figure 8
at right angles across the other, starting at the moment
when the first pair are hardly halfway round their circle.
All should commence on the same foot. In the days of
minuets, this figure was performed with a great deal of
pomp and gesture — with touching of hands and lifting of
beavers, from which it derived its name ; but all that sort of
thing may now be dispensed with.
In this figure also, 3s may be substituted for circles : the
3s are usually done so that the finish of the 3 brings you
back to the starting point, in which case you repeat on the
other foot again, finishing at the starting point, and going
on over the same lines.
You may, however, so arrange that the first 3 takes you out
and the second brings you home, as shown in the diagram of
3s for four skaters, which is one of Mr. CartwriglnVs figures :
CONCERTED SKATING. 6f*
As I am not acquainted with the performances of the
London Club, I cannot do better than quote Mr. Cartwright
in the Field on the subject of the combined figures usually-
practised by that club : —
As in dancing, there are five figures practised by the Club. Here, how-
ever, all natural comparison between the two ends. It is a mistake to
call these " figures " qiiadrilles. If I state of what strokes each of these
consists, I think my readers will need nothing but the light of their
own experience to help them to a perfect knowledge of what they are,
and will only require the ability for all the strokes, and practice in
companies, to be able to perform them. They are at present, taken in
themselves, unquestionably the most elegant of any combinations it has
been my fortune to see. When well skated, every stroke being perfectly
timed and made with that perfect ease and never-failing accuracy which
industrious practice and frequent opportunity give, the scene from a
spectator's point of view is charming. Individually, to the skaters it
might seem that a "3 " or an u 8," whether done in concert or alone^
would have just the same measure of attraction and furnish the same
amount of pleasure. It is not so, however, and though each one's
motion is perfectly independent of the others, the eye is quite cognisant
of the combined effect, and the pleasure is greatly enhanced. Taking
the figures in rotation, it will be seen that there is a gradually ascending
scale. The figures are done on the right and left foot in every case*
Sometimes two engage in them, sometimes four. The latter is the
proper number, and any addition* should not be attempted. For illus*
tration, I may suppose that a circle of fifteen yards diameter or more
has been cleared. The four skaters face each other at right angles and
nearly equidistant. Each! one starting on the right, does the entire
figure as set down below ; it terminates in the centre, and he Repeats on
the left leg, arriving at the same point again for the next figure.
Figure L— Cross over by figure "3 " on right foot, and back again
on left foot.
Figure II. — The Single Back.— Figure "3" right foot; outside
edge back, and figure " 3 " to place.
Figure III. — The Double Back. — Figure " 3 *' outside edge back ;•
figure "3" outside edge, back again to place.
Figure IV. — Figure " 3 " outside edge back, and change to outside
edge forward to place.
Figure V;— Th& Back Entire. -^-Figure "3" outside edge, back to
66 THE ART OF SKATING.
the turning place in the " 3," then outside edge back for a complete
circle on the other foot.
These are the figures. Practice alone can teach skaters how to go
through them together. Diagrams drawn with mathematical accuracy-
would not practically benefit them. Being once theoretically known,
the only further help is practical experience. Full figures have the best
appearance. It is only by skating together that four skaters can know
each other's "time," and how far they will allow the "3" to carry
them. Figure III. is the most beautiful of the set, the repeated " 3 "
and the two changes to the outside edge all being made at the same
moment of time, and all being at the same distance from the centre, so
that the 'appearance presented is that of four skaters describing one
backward circle, are very pleasant. Of course the charm of this kind
of skating depends upon everything being done well, any contretemps
spoils the whole. The strokes are only the strokes known and prac-
tised by the best skaters all over the country, and the combination
of them into figures is not difficult. Skill is required - perhaps I ought
rather to say combined practice — to calculate so well that on each
return to the centre (and it will be seen that these returns are
numerous) the right spot shall be reached at the right moment of
time, so that the succeeding four strokes of the four skaters shall
carry them round each other without touching, but still quite close.
Herein lies perhaps the greatest difficulty, and certainly the greatest
I hope my readers will perfectly understand the above
descriptions ; one or two of them, however, might have
more than one meaning, and I am not myself quite sure of
The concerted figures skated by the Glasgow Club in its
palmiest days (Eheu! fug aces annos) were the following, per-
formed by four skaters so timing their movements, that
while two were crossing each other at the centre the other
two were at the outer points of the figure. I will describe
the movements of only one of the four performers, as the
Suppose the skaters to be standing at north, south, east,
and west, facing each other and about a yard apart ; a ball
CONCERTED SKATING. 67
is placed in the centre, and one about a yard behind each
skater, as guides for the circles.
1st Figure — Cross 3s.
The man at north skates a common 3 out towards the
south on the right foot, finishing his figure in the centre; then
skates one towards the north on the left foot, finishing in his
original position in the centre, facing south. Meantime, the
man at south had started simultaneously in the opposite
direction, the two always crossing each other in the centre,
by the right first and then by the left, while those at east
and west started just as the first two had reached their outer
2nd Figure — Half Backs.
The man at north starts for "outside 3," towards the south
— that is, starts right outside forward, instantly changing
to left outside back; on reaching his southern limit he
changes to right outside forward, a semi-circle bringing him
back to the centre. He then starts left outside forward
towards the north, instantly changing to right outside back,
and from his northern limit returns by a forward half-roll
on the left, finishing again in his original position, facing
the south ; the others doing their corresponding figures.
Sometimes this was varied by making the return a second
half back instead of a half forward roll.
3rd Figure — Mixed Backs.
The man at north skates south a full circle on the right
foot, finishing in the centre and starting towards north, on
the left outside forward, instantly changed to the right
back, on which he does a full circle; as he reaches the
centre the left is put down behind, and a half- circle, left
back, takes him again to the southern limit, from which a
half-circle, on the right forward, brings him again to the
68 THE ART OF SKATING.
centre. Then a complete circle, on the left outside, towards
the north, then right outside forward changing to left
outside back towards the south, finishing in the centre ;
then right outside half back, towards the north, finishing
with a half r circle, left outside forward; the other skaters.
4th Figure — 8s.
Outside forward circle, first on right foot then on left;
a very simple figure, as a relief to the last complicated one.
5th Figure — Full Backs.
The man at north skates towards south, starting right
outside forward, instantly changing to left outside back,
and doing a complete circle. On reaching the centre the
right is put down behind, and a complete circle towards
north finishes again in the centre; the others doing their
6th Figure — Shamrocks.
The man at north starts towards south for a full Figure 3
by right outside forward, changing to right inside back, and
completing the circle ; on reaching the centre, without
putting d.own the other foot, he changes the edge of the
iron and makes a complete circle towards north, on the right
outside back, finishing again in the centre. From the
position at this point it was not possible to repeat on the
left foot, and the performance usually ended abruptly rather
before this point was reached, through inaccurate timing,
The proper conclusion of the figure, from that point, would
be left inside forward, toward south, changing to left outside
back, and completing the circle; then, at the centre, turning
the edge without setting down the right, finish with a ful|
piricle, left inside back.
Sometimes double 3s and other variations were tried; but
the combinations as I have described them were the most
approved, and they are quite difficult enough to require
a great deal of patient practice in concert, to time them
accurately enough to avoid collisions and checks.
Some of them seem the same as the London figures, or
nearly so; and I believe the original knowledge of such
combinations came from London, though in process of time
the figures got somewhat modified.
I now find that my pleasant and self-imposed task has
reached its conclusion. Deficient, no doubt, in some
respects, and imperfect in others, I may have omitted many
figures — from ignorance, or from intention ; but I can
safely say that the skater who masters all that I have
described, if he unite, as he can hardly fail to do, a certain
degree of freedom and grace in his carriage, may well
esteem himself an adept. There is nothing on skates that
he may not freely attempt afterwards ; and he may employ
his inventive faculties in working out new evolutions and
combinations for himself.
An advantage possessed by this pastime over most others,
I did not formerly advert to ; yet it is no small matter to
those whose scholastic or business pursuits fully occupy the
brief daylight of a winter's day, that skating requires no
such accurate vision as to prevent its being enjoyed at
night, unless, indeed, the night is dark. Nay, I am not
prepared to say that it does not acquire higher zest, and is
not followed with keener relish, when it comes as the relaxa-
tion after the day's toil. In the clear and bracing atmo-
sphere of a frosty night, when
The floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold,
70 THE ART OF SKATING.
such, pastime will bring both health and pleasure to the
thought-worn and the weary.
Moreover, we have the chances of the moonlight.
Fair Cynthia, she who never sleeps,
But walks about high heaven all the night,
seems particularly partial to doing so when our frosts are
keenest ; and never does the " smile of the moon " give us
more u tender greeting " than when her full round orb rises
over the trees that fringe the banks of some pleasant sheet
of frozen water.
My days of enthusiasm are sadly on the wane — more's
the pity ; but in my " calida juventa," many a time and oft
have I spent long and pleasant hours of moonlight on the
ice-bound waters, with no company save my own thoughts.
In such solitude, what feelings and emotions stir the heart
exhilarated by this glorious exercise, I will not attempt to
tell, seeing that a great master has done so before me ; and
how better can I conclude than by giving them to the
reader in their true and fitting utterance ? And then I may
say, though not in the implied, at least in the literal, sense
— Finis coronat opus.
* ♦ * * *
In solitude, such intercourse was mine;
'Twas mine among the fields both day and night,
And by the waters, all the summer long.
And in the frosty season, when the sun
Was set, and, visible for many a mile,
The cottage windows through the twilight blazed,
I heeded not the summons: happy time
It was indeed for all of us; for me
It was a time of rapture ! Clear and loud
The village clock tolled six. I wheeled about,
Proud and exulting like an untired horse
That cares not for his home. All shod with steel,
We hissed along the polished ice, in games
Confederate, imitative of the chase
And woodland pleasures— the resounding horn,
The pack loud- chiming, and the hunted hare.
So through the darkness and the cold we flew,
And not a voice was idle: with the din
Smitten, the precipices rang aloud;
The leafless trees and every icy crag
Tinkled like iron ; while the distant hills
Into the tumult sent an alien sound
Of melancholy, not unnoticed, while the stars
Eastward were sparkling clear, and in the west
The orange sky of evening died away.
Not seldom from the uproar I retired
Into a silent bay, or sportively
Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng,
To cut across the reflex of a star ;
Image that, flying still before me, gleamed
Upon the glassy plain: and oftentimes,
When we had given our bodies to the wind,
And all the shadowy banks on either side
Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still
The rapid line of motion, then at once
Have I, reclining back upon my heels,
Stopped short; yet still the solitary cliffs
Wheeled by me — even as if the Earth had rolled
With visible motion her diurnal round!
Behind me did they stretch in solemn train,
Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watched
Till all was tranquil as a summer sea.
1'RINTED BY HORACE COX, 346, STRAND, LONDON.